HELENA CITIZENS CELEBRATE THEIR NEW RIGHTS
Helena, Montana's African Americans, like their counterparts throughout the United States acclaimed the passage of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. In 1870 they wrote the local newspaper, the Helena Daily Herald, announcing their celebration. The vignette suggests that Reconstruction mean a new birth of freedom for African American outside the South as well as in the Reconstruction states.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR:
We, the colored citizens of Helena, feeling desirous of showing our high appreciation of those God-like gifts granted to us by and through the passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and knowing, as we do, that those rights which have been withheld from us, are now submerged and numbered with the things of the past, now thank God, is written and heralded to the wide world that we are free men and citizens of the United States--shorn of all those stigmatizing qualifications which have made us beasts. To-day, thank God, and the Congress of the United States, that we, the colored people of the United States, possess all those rights which God, in His infinite wisdom, conveyed and gave unto us.
Now, we, the citizens of Helena, in the Territory of Montana, in mass assembled, on the 14th of April, A.D. 1870, do, by these presents, declare our intentions of celebrating the ratification of the 15th Amendment, on this 15th day of April, by the firing of thirty-two guns, from the hill and to the south of the city.
BENJAMIN STONE, President
J.R. JOHNSON, Secretary
Source: Helena Daily Herald, April 15, 1870.
THE BLACK CODES
Immediately after the Civil War ex slaveholders generated a series of laws to regulate the behavior of the newly freed slaves. While these codes recognized the end of slavery, most of these laws nevertheless created repressive conditions that were strikingly similar to slavery. Reprinted below are some of the 1866 black codes for a Louisiana parish.
Sec. 1: Be it ordained by the police jury of the parish of St. Landry, That no negro shall be allowed to pass within the limits of said parish without special permit in writing from his employer. Whoever shall violate this provision shall pay a fine of two dollars and fifty cents, or in default thereof shall be forced to work four days on the public road, or suffer corporal punishment as provided hereinafter.
Sec. 2: Every negro who shall be found absent from the residence of his employer after ten o'clock at night, without a written permit from his employer, shall pay a fine...
Sec. 3: No negro shall be permitted to rent or keep a house within said parish. Any negro violating this provision shall be immediately ejected and compelled to find an employer...
Sec. 4: Every negro is required to be in the regular service of some white person, or former owner, who shall be held responsible for the conduct of said negro.
Sec. 5: No public meetings or congregations of negroes shall be allowed within said parish after sunset, but such public meetings and congregations may be held between the hours of sunrise and sunset, by special permission in writing of the captain of patrol, within whose beat such meetings shall take place. This prohibition, however, is not to prevent negroes from attending the usual church services, conducted by white ministers and priests...
Sec. 6: No negro shall be permitted to preach, exhort, or otherwise declaim to congregations of colored people, without a special permission in writing from the president of the police jury...
Sec. 7: No negro who is not in the military service shall be allowed to carry firearms, or any kind of weapons, within the parish without special written permission of his employers, approved and indorsed by the nearest and most convenient chief of patrol.
Sec. 8: No negro shall sell, barter, or exchange any articles of merchandise or traffic within said parish without the special written permission of his employer, specifying the article of sale, barter or traffic.
Sec. 9: Any negro found drunk, within the said parish shall pay a fine of five dollars, or in default thereof work five days on the public road, or suffer corporal punishment as hereinafter provided.
Source: Howard H. Quint, Milton Cantor and Dean Albertson, Main Problems in American History, (Chicago: The Dorsey Press, 1987) p. 9 10.
THADDEUS STEVENS DEMANDS BLACK SUFFRAGE
Pennsylvania Representative Thaddeus Stevens was one of the leaders of the Radical Republicans in the Post Civil War Congress. In 1867 Stevens makes an impassioned plea for black suffrage before the House of Representatives.
There are several good reasons for the passage of this bill [for reconstructing the South]. In the first place, it is just. I am now confining my argument to Negro suffrage in the rebel states. Have not loyal blacks quite as good a right to choose rulers and make laws as rebel whites?
In the second place, it is a necessity in order to protect the loyal white men in the seceded states. The white Union men are in a great minority in each of those states. With them the blacks would act in a body; and it is believed that in each of said states, except one, the two united would form a majority, control the states and protect themselves. Now they are the victims of daily murder. They must suffer constant persecution, or be exiled...
Another good reason is, it would insure the ascendancy of the Union [Republican] Party. "Do you avow the party purpose?" exclaims some horror stricken demagogue. I do. For I believe, on my conscience, that on the continued ascendancy of that party depends the safety of this great nation. If impartial suffrage is excluded in the rebel states, then every one of them is sure to send a solid rebel representative delegation to Congress, and cast a solid rebel electoral vote. They, with their kindred Copperheads of the North, would always elect the President and control Congress. Whole Slavery sat upon her defiant throne, and insulted and intimidated the trembling North... Now, you must divide them between loyalists, without regard to color, and disloyalists, or you will be the perpetual vassals of the free trade, irritated, revengeful South.
For these, among other reasons, I am for Negro suffrage in every rebel state. If it be just, it should not be denied; if it be necessary, it should be adopted; if it be a punishment to traitors, they deserve it.
Source: Thomas A. Bailey & David M. Kennedy, The American Spirit, Vol. II, Lexington, Mass: D. C. Heath and Company, 1984), pp. 457 458.
READMISSION OF EX CONFEDERATE STATES
State Military Dist. Date of Readmission Government Reestablished
Tennessee * July 24, 1866 October 4, 1869
Arkansas 4 June 22, 1868 November 10, 1869
Florida 3 June 25, 1868 January 2, 1877
Louisiana 5 June 25, 1868 January 2, 1877
North Carolina 2 June 25, 1868 November 3, 1870
South Carolina 2 June 25, 1868 November 28, 1876
Alabama 3 July 14, 1868 November 16, 1874
Virginia 1 January 26, 1870 October 5, 1869
Mississippi 4 February 23, 1870 January 4, 1876
Texas 5 March 30, 1870 January 14, 1873
Georgia 3 July 15, 1870 November 1, 1871
*Tennessee was readmitted to the Union before the other Ex Confederate States were divided into military districts.
FIRST RECONSTRUCTION LEGISLATURES
Black % of Black White Black % of
State Pop. (1870) Legislators Legislators Legislators
South Carolina 59 84 73 53
Mississippi 56 40 75 34
Louisiana 51 49 88 36
Florida 49 19 57 25
Alabama 48 26 58 30
Georgia 46 32 214 13
Virginia 42 27 154 15
North Carolina 37 19 135 12
Texas 31 11 156 6
Tennessee 26 1 94 1
Arkansas 25 0 87 0
SOUTH CAROLINA UNDER BLACK GOVERNMENT
James S. Pike, a Maine Republican and former abolitionist, toured South Carolina in 1873 and wrote a highly critical account of Reconstruction in that state. Here is part of his description of the state legislature.
Yesterday, about 4 p.m., the assembled wisdom of the State....issued forth from the State House. About three quarters of the crowd belonged to the African race. They were of every hue, from the light octoroon to the deep black. They were such a body of men as might pour our of a market house at random in any Southern state...
"My God, look at this!" was the unbidden ejaculation of a low country planter, clad in homespun, as he leaned over the rail inside the House, gazing excitedly upon the body in session. "This is the first time I have been here. I thought I knew what we were doing when we consented to emancipation. I knew the negro...but I never though it would come to this. Let me go."
In the place of this old aristocratic society stands the rude form of the most ignorant democracy that mankind ever saw, invested with the functions of government... It is barbarism overwhelming civilization by physical force. It is the slave rioting in the halls of his master, and putting that master under his feet.
...The body is almost literally a Black Parliament, and it is the only one on the face of the earth which is representative of a white constituency and the professed exponent of an advanced type of modern civilization...The Speaker is black, the Clerk is black...the chairman of the Ways and Means is black, and the chaplain is coal black.
One of the things that first strike a casual observer in this negro assembly is the fluency of debate...When an appropriation bill is up to raise money to catch and punish the Ku klux, they know exactly what it means. So, too, with educational measures. The free school comes right home to them... Sambo can talk on these topics and their endless ramifications, day in and day out.
The negro is imitative in the extreme. He can copy like a parrot or a monkey... He believes he can do any thing, and never loses a chance to try... He is more vivacious than the white, and, being more volatile and good natured, he is correspondingly more irrepressible... He answers completely to the description of a stupid speaker in Parliament, given by Lord Derby on one occasion. It was said of him that he did not know what he was going to say when he got up; he did not know what he was saying while he was speaking, and he did not know what he had said when he sat down.
Will South Carolina be Africanized? That depends. The pickaninnies die off from want of care. Some blacks are coming in from North Carolina and Virginia, but others are going off farther South. The white young men who were growing into manhood did not seem inclined to leave their homes and migrate to foreign parts... The old slave holders still hold their lands. The negroes were poor and unable to buy, even if the land owners would sell. The whites seem likely to hold their own while the blacks fall off.
Source: Richard N. Current and John A. Garraty, ed., Words that Made American History Since The Civil War, (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1965), pp. 57 61.
A DEBATE OVER PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Until the 1960s most historians of Reconstruction assumed that black politicians made virtually no contribution to the post Civil War debates surrounding land redistribution and the public school system. The historical record clearly shows otherwise. In the following account from the Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of South Carolina in 1868, we see the spirited discussion among black politicians over compulsory education. Here is part of the debate.
MR. R. C. DE LARGE: I am not well acquainted with all the clauses in the constitution of Massachusetts, and speak only from my historic knowledge of that people. This section proposes to open these schools to all persons, irrespective of color, to open every seminary of learning to all. Heartily do I endorse the object, but the manner in which it is to be enforced meets my most earnest disapproval. I do not propose to enact in this report a section that may be used by our enemies to appeal to the worst passions of a class of people in this State. The schools may be opened to all, under proper provisions in the Constitution, but to declare that parents "shall" send their children to them whether they are willing or not is, in my judgment, going to a step beyond the bounds of prudence. Is there any logic or reason in inserting in the Constitution a provision which cannot be enforced? What do we intend to give the legislature power to do? In one breath you propose to protect minor children, and in the next to punish their parents by fine and imprisonment if they do not send their children to school. For these reasons I am opposed to the section, and urge that the word "compulsory" shall be stricken out.
MR. A. J. RANSIER: I am sorry to differ with my colleague from Charleston on this question. I contend that in proportion to the education of the people so is their progress in civilization. Believing this, I believe that the Committee have properly provided for the compulsory education of all the children in this State between the ages named in the section.
I recognize the importance of this measure. there is a seeming objection to the word "compulsory," but I do not think it of grave importance. My friend does not like it, because he says it is contrary to the spirit of republicanism. To be free, however, is not to enjoy unlimited license, or my friend himself might desire to enslave again his fellow men.
Now I propose to support this section fully, and believe that the more it is considered in all its bearings upon the welfare of our people, the greater will be the desire that every parent shall, by some means, be compelled to educate his children and fit them for the responsibilities of life. As to the particular mode of enforcing attendance at school, we leave that an open question. At present we are only asserting the general principle, and the Legislature will provide for its application.
Upon the success of republicanism depends the progress which our people are destined to make. If parents are disposed to clog this progress by neglecting the education of their children, for one, I will not aid and abet them. Hence, this, in my opinion, is an exceedingly wise provision, and I am content to trust to the Legislature to carry out the measures to which it necessarily leads.
Vice and degradation go hand in hand with ignorance. Civilization and enlightenment follow fast upon the footsteps of the schoolmaster; and if education must be enforced to secure these grand results, I say let the compulsory process go on.
MR. R. C. DE LARGE: Can the gentleman demonstrate how the Legislature is to enforce the education of children without punishment of their parents by fine or imprisonment.
MR. A. J. RANSIER: When that question arises in the Legislature, I hope we shall answer that question. If there is any one thing to which we may attribute the sufferings endured by this people, it is the gross ignorance of the masses. While we propose to avoid all difficulties which may be fraught with evil to the community, we shall, nevertheless, insist upon our right to provide for the exercise of the great moral agencies which education always brings to bear upon public opinion. had there been such a provision as this in the Constitution of South Carolina heretofore, there is no doubt that many of the evils which at present exist would have been avoided, and the people would have been advanced to a higher stage of civilization and morals, and we would not have been called upon to mourn the loss of the flower of the youth of our country. In conclusion, I favor this section as it stands. I do not think it will militate against the cause of republicanism, but, on the contrary, be of benefit both to it and to the people whom we represent. Feeling that everything depends on the education of the rising generation, I shall give this measure my vote, and use all my exertions to secure its adoption into this Constitution.
MR. B. F. RANDOLPH: In favoring, as I do, compulsory attendance at school, I cannot for the life of me see in what manner republicanism is at stake. It seems to have been the fashion on this floor to question a man's republicanism because he chooses to differ with others on general principles. Now this is a question which does not concern republicanism at all. It is simply a matter of justice which is due to a people, and it might be just as consistently urged that it is contrary to republican principles to organize the militia, as to urge that this provision is anti-republican because it compels parents to see to the education of their children.
MR. B. O. DUNCAN: Does the gentleman propose to educate children at the point of the bayonet, through the militia?
MR. B. F. RANDOLPH: If necessary, we may call out the militia to enforce the law. Now, the gentlemen on the other side have given no reasons why the word "compulsory" should be stricken out.
MR. R. C. DE LARGE: Can you name any State where the provisions exists in its Constitution?
MR. B. F. RANDOLPH: It exists in Massachusetts.
MR. R. C. DE LARGE: That is not so.
MR. F. L. CARDOZO: This system has been tested in Germany, and I defy the gentlemen from Charleston to deny the fact. It has also been tested in several States of the Union, and I defy the gentleman to show that is has not been a success. It becomes the duty of the opposition if they want this section stricken from the report, to show that where it has been applied it has failed to produce the result desired.
MR. J. J. WRIGHT: Will you inform us what State in the Union compels parents to send their children to school?
MR. B. F. RANDOLPH: The State of New Hampshire is one. It may be asked what is the object of law? It is not only for the purpose of restraining men from doing wrong, but for the protection of all citizens of a State, and the promotion of the general welfare. Blackstone lays it down as one of the objects, the furthering, as far as it can consistently be done of the general welfare of the people. It is one of the objects of law, as far as practicable, not to restrain wrong by punishing man for violating the right, but also one of its grand objects to build up civilization, and this is the grand object of this provision in the report of the Committee on Education. It proposes to further civilization and I look upon it as one of the most important results which will follow the defeat of the rebel armies, the establishment among the people who have long been deprived of the privilege of education, a law which will compel parents to send their children to school.
Source: Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of South Carolina (Charleston, 1868), pp. 686-94, 705-08. Reprinted in Thomas R. Frazier, Afro-American History: Primary Sources.(Chicago, 1988)pp. 138-142.
BEN TILLMAN JUSTIFIES RECONSTRUCTION VIOLENCE
South Carolina Senator Benjamin R. Tillman participated in anti black violence in the 1870s. Years later, in a 1907 speech on the floor of Senate, he explained why the violence was necessary.
It was in 1876, thirty years ago, and the people of South Carolina had been living under Negro rule for eight years. There was a condition bordering upon anarchy. Misrule, robbery, and murder were holding high carnival...Life ceased to be worth having on the terms under which we were living, and in desperation we determined to take the government away from the Negroes.
We reorganized the Democratic Party [of South Carolina] with one plank, and only one plank, namely, that "this is a white man's country, and white men must govern it." Under that banner we went to battle.
We had 8,000 Negro militia organized by carpetbaggers... They used to drum up and down the roads with their fifes and their gleaming bayonets, equipped with new Springfield rifles and dressed in the regulation uniform. It was lawful, I suppose, but these Negro soldiers or this Negro militia, for they were never soldiers growing more and more bold, let drop talk among themselves where the white children might hear... This is what they said: "The President [Grant] is our friend. The North is with us. We intend to kill all the white men, take the land, marry the white women, and then these white children will wait on us."
Clashes came. The Negro militia grew unbearable and more and more insolent. I am not speaking of what I have read; I am speaking of what I know, of what I saw. There were two militia companies in my township and a regiment in my county. We had clashes with these Negro militiamen. The Hamburg riot was one clash, in which seven Negroes and one white man were killed. A month later we had the Ellerton riot, in which no one ever knew how many Negroes were killed, but there were [at least] forty or fifty or a hundred. It was a fight between barbarism and civilization, between the African and the Caucasian, for mastery.
It was then that "we shot them"; it was then that "we killed them"; it was then that "we stuffed ballot boxes." After the [federal] troops came and told us, "You must stop this rioting," we had decided to take the government away from men so debased as were the Negro...
[President] Grant sent troops to maintain the carpetbag government in power and to protect the Negroes in the right to vote. He merely obeyed the law... Then it was that "we stuffed ballot boxes," because desperate diseases require desperate remedies, and having resolved to take the state away, we hesitated at nothing...
I want to say now that we have not shot any Negroes in South Carolina on account of politics since 1876. We have not found it necessary. Eighteen hundred and seventy six happened to be the hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and the action of the white men of South Carolina in taking the state away from the Negroes we regard as a second declaration of independence by the Caucasian from African barbarism.
Source: Thomas A. Bailey & David M. Kennedy, The American Spirit, Vol. II, Lexington, Mass: D. C. Heath and Company, 1984), pp. 462 463.
CHAPTER FIVE: INDUSTRIALIZING AMERICA
Terms for Week 5
standard time zones
John D. Rockefeller
Standard Oil Trust
J. P. Morgan
National Women’s Party
Interstate Commerce Commission
Sherman Anti Trust Act, 1890
Women's Christian Temperance Union
Andrew Carnegie, The Gospel of Wealth
Carlisle Indian School
American Protective Association
Chinese Exclusion Act, 1883
RAILROADS AND WESTERN LANDS: San Luis Obispo
The federal government and various states granted Railroad Corporations thousands of acres of prime public lands to encourage them to extend rail lines into the West. These donations often made railroads, after the federal government, the largest landholders in most western states. Yet some railroads demanded additional concessions from cities, counties, and private citizens before they would construct lines into cities and towns. Local farmers and ranchers, eager to get produce or livestock to market, and town boosters, anxious to see a rail line stimulate population growth and commercial development, often willingly gave valuable lands to the railroads. The 1889 resolution reprinted below, describes how San Luis Obispo citizens purchased land at the request of the Southern Pacific Railroad.
WHEREAS, The Southern Pacific Railroad Company has proposed to citizens of the city of San Luis Obispo and vicinity, that if said citizens will purchase and donate to said railroad company, the right of way for its railroad from the west side of the Cuesta mountains in San Luis Obispo county, California, to and through said city, and also such lands within the corporate limits of said city as may be necessary for the machine shops, depot grounds, and side tracks of said railroad, the said railroad company will without delay, build and construct its railroad from Santa Margarita in said county to said city of San Luis Obispo; and
WHEREAS, the early construction of said railroad of said city will be of great benefit to us and each of us; and
WHEREAS, R.E. Jack, H.E. McBride, J.H. Maddux, L.M. Kaiser, Levi Rackliffe, L.M. Warden and E.P. Unangst, have been duly appointed a committee, and are duly authorized to act for said citizens. They are hereby made our agents to make said purchases and to donate said lands to said railroad company when purchased.
Source: San Luis Obispo Tribune and Daily Republic, May 1, 1889.