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war, and not rising to statesmanlike proportions, he could not outweigh the mischievous platform and the Vice-Presidental candidate, the hot-headed Gen. Francis P. Blair of Missouri, who had just proposed measures nothing short of revolutionary to override Congress. Against this combination the Republicans advanced securely to victory. Meeting in Chicago in May, they showed a temper more moderate than that of Congress; they of course condemned the President, but they refused to censure the seven independent senators; and upon Carl Schurz's motion passed a resolution welcoming back all former enemies now become loyal, and favoring the early and rapid removal of disabilities. As to the Presidential nomination, there was no division,-it was given unhesitatingly, unanimously, heartily, to General Grant. His steadfastness and success in war had been matched by his magnanimity in victory and his prudence in the troubled times that followed. Of manly simplicity and solid worth, sagacious and successful wherever he had been tried, he seemed at once an embodiment of past victory and an assurance of future safety. Of the thirty-four States that voted, all but eight were for Grant and Colfax. Seymour had New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Oregon, Georgia, and Louisiana. The popular vote was 3,012,000 for Grant and Colfax to 2,703,000 for Seymour and Blair.
The Republican convention had shirked the question of negro suffrage at the North by referring it to the individual States. Its refusal in many of the Northern States was felt as a discredit after it had been enforced throughout the South. The Republicans in Congress took courage from the election. The Fifteenth Amendment, forbidding the States to deny the right to vote "on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude," was brought forward
in Congress in December, and passed February 28, 1869. It was ratified in rapid succession by thirty States out of thirty-seven, Tennessee not acting, and negative votes being given by California, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, and Oregon,-and proclaimed as adopted, March 30, 1870.
With Grant's election, and the last touches of reconstruction sure to follow close, the North, as it were, drew a deep breath of relief. It felt that the fundamental issues were settled. The war had preserved the Union and destroyed slavery. The consummation had been fitly rounded out by the changes in the Constitution. The Southern States were restored to their places. Vast tides of material advance were setting in. New questions were rising, new ideas were fermenting. Good-bye to the past,-so felt the North, to its injustice and its strife. As the nation's chieftain had said, in accepting the call to the nation's Presidency, "Let us have peace."
RECONSTRUCTION: THE WORKING OUT
So the North turned cheerfully to its own affairs—and very engrossing affairs they were-and the South faced its new conditions. It was still struggling with the economic wreckage left by four years of battle, invasion and defeat. It had borne the loss of its separate nationality and the flag endeared by countless sacrifices. It had accepted the sudden emancipation of its servile class by the conqueror's hand. It had been encouraged by President Johnson to resume with little change its old ways of government. For two years it had gone along precariously with State organizations of the earlier pattern, subject to occasional interruption by military authority or officials of the Freedmen's Bureau. Then, in 1867, all State governments were set aside, and military rule pure and simple held the field,-in most States for about fifteen months; in Mississippi, Texas and Virginia, by their own choice, for as much longer. Though as it was generally administered the military government was just, as well as economical, yet its maintenance was a bitter ordeal for people with the American political habit; a people, too, who had fought gallantly for four years; who had, upon accepting their defeat, been assured that the object of their conqueror was attained in restoring them to their old position, except for emancipation of the slaves; and who now for a year or two longer were held under martial law.
At last-for most of them in mid-summer of 1868-they were again restored to self-government of the American
pattern. Self-government for all, thought the North complacently; whites and blacks were equal, not only as subjects of the law but as makers of the law; and so freedom and democracy were established. But the Southern whites asked in dismay, What kind of fellow-lawmakers have we got? The question answered itself. The million or so of new voters were most of them ignorant in a sense of which illiteracy gives but a hint. They were unversed even in genuine family life; skilled only in manual industry; unpracticed in citizenship; utterly untaught in the principles, the facts of history, the theory and art of self-government, which make up the proper equipment of the voter. A great art of them, field hands on the great cotton and sugar plantations, were rude and degraded, trained to live solely under close and constant control.
How were the whites to deal with these new-made voters? From the standpoint of expediency, three courses offered,to conciliate and educate them; to outvote them by massing the whites together; or to suppress them by force or fraud. From the standpoint of unregenerate human nature, the whites as a body at first took none of these courses,—they stood apart from the whole business of politics, in wrath and scorn. Unregenerate perhaps, but most natural, most human! At first, some crude policy mingled with the sentiment that kept them aloof; there was the hope that if the whites generally abstained from voting, at the elections. held in November, 1867, to pass on the question whether to hold constitutional conventions, the proposal might fail for want of the requisite majority of the registered voters. It was a fallacious hope; suppose the conventions were to fail, what better terms were now to be expected from Congress? But the conventions were all held; and as in the same spirit most of the whites refused to vote for delegates, these were chosen from the negroes, their friends
from the North, and the few Southern whites who accepted the inevitable.
Is it not the wisest, the manliest course, to accept the inevitable? So asked General Longstreet, in a letter to a friend, June 3, 1867. He had just listened to Senator Wilson, and had been surprised by his fairness and frankness. For himself he says, "I will be happy to work in any harness that promises relief to our discomfited people, whether bearing the mantle of Mr. Davis or Mr. Sumner." Negro suffrage is for the present an established fact; if after a fair trial it works disastrously, we will appeal to Congress to repeal it. "If every one will meet the crisis with proper appreciation of our condition and obligations, the sun will rise to-morrow on a happy people." But his words fell on deaf ears, and when he acted with the Republicans he was visited with ostracism, denunciation, and attack upon his war record. The typical attitude, at first, was that of the planter who, after listening to a discussion of the final reconstruction act, inquired, "Does it say anything about raising cotton?" "No." "Then, damn Congress and its laws! I'm going to raise cotton." So he and a good many others gave themselves to raising cotton, and for a while left the choice of State officers and legislators to "niggers," carpet-baggers," and "scalawags." A "scalawag" was any Southern white who allied himself politically with the negroes, and a "carpet-bagger" was a Northern adventurer, for whose worldly goods a gripsack sufficed,—or, in general, any Northerner whatever.
For the blacks, the sudden opening of political power and preferment, however designed, was in effect a very doubtful benefit. It turned their hopes and aspirations in a way which was really "no thoroughfare." To the more promising and ambitious it offered sudden and brilliant prizes, instead of the patient apprenticeship which they needed.