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treasure for having had for most of their lives no property rights of their own, not even the ownership of their own souls and bodies. Yet most of the plunder seems to have gone into the pockets of knaves of the superior race. There was a degree of extravagance, waste and corruption, varying greatly with localities and times, but sufficient to leave a permanent discredit on the Southern Republican governments as a class. To judge accurately of the merits and demerits of these governments is perhaps as difficult a task as historian ever undertook. So fierce is the passion which invests these events in the memory of the present generation, that it is almost hopeless to sift and adjudicate the sober facts. Time has softened much; even the Civil War begins to stand forth in some firmness of outline and clarity of atmosphere. But when we come to reconstruction-grave historians grow almost hysterical, romancers pass the bounds of possibilities, and even official figures contradict one another with sublime effrontery.
Yet this very passion of remembrance, which in one way obscures, in another way illuminates the historical situation. The grievance most profoundly felt in the reconstruction period was not unwise laws nor waste of public money nor oppressive taxes. It was the consciousness by the master class of political subjection to the servile class. It was the spectacle of rude blacks, yesterday picking cotton or driving mules, sitting in the legislators' seats and executive offices of Richmond and Columbia, holding places of power among the people of Lee and Calhoun. Fancy the people of Massachusetts, were the state-house on Beacon hill suddenly occupied by Italian, Polish and Russian laborers,-placed and kept there by a foreign conqueror. Add to the comparison the prouder height of the slaveholder, and the lower depth of his serf. Put this as the case of a people high-strung and sensitive, still fresh from the
passion of war, still smarting from defeat. They had fought to exhaustion, and their banner had fallen without disgrace. Now the victors who had won by superiority of force had placed their late bondmen as their rulers. The offices from which their own captains and chiefs were shut out were filled by plantation field-hands.
It was not likely that the first attitude of scornful passivity would long continue, and it did not. The warnings vainly uttered beforehand,—that the natural leaders would surely lead, and had best be won as allies, were proved right when it was too late. Said the Republican, August 10, 1868, in protesting against the plan of the party managers in organizing the Southern wing to consist mainly of the blacks: “The Republican party cannot long maintain its supremacy at the South by negro votes alone. The instincts of submission and dependence in them and of domination in the whites, are too strong to permit such a reversal of the familiar relations and the natural order. The slave-holding element has learned to combine, conspire and command, in the best school on earth, and they will certainly come to the top. Nor is it desirable that such a state of things should continue.”
The old official class being excluded—to the number, it was estimated, of 160,000,-and the stand-aloof policy, or drift rather, prevailing in the political field, it was the more lawless element that first began to conspicuously assert the white supremacy. There grew up an organization called “the Ku-Klux Klan," designed at first partly as a rough sport and masquerade, partly to overawe the negroes. There were midnight ridings in spectral disguises, warnings, alarms and presently whippings and even murders. The society, or imitations of it, spread over most of the South. It was at its height in 1868-70, and in the latter year it gradually gave way,
partly owing to vigorous measures ordered from Washington, and partly perhaps as legitimate political combinations again occupied the whites. But it is to be noted that throughout the decade of reconstruction, though the present fashion is to lay exclusive stress on the wrong-doing of the negroes and their friends, yet the physical violence, frequent and widespread, was almost wholly practiced by the whites.
From the political torpor, due to discouragement and resentment, there was an early recovery. When it was found that cotton-planting pure and simple, with ignoring of politics, resulted in heavy taxes for the planter; when to the first numbness there succeeded the active smart,—the whites betook themselves to the resource which in most States soon proved adequate,—the ballot, and political combination. In several States the whites were easily in the majority, and where they were slightly outnumbered their superior intelligence soon gave them the advantage. In Georgia, finally readmitted at the end of 1869, the Democrats—constituting the great body of the whites—carried the election in the next year, and remained in control of the State. Virginia, which had advisedly kept under military rule until, with President Grant's aid, she came in without the excluding clauses, early in 1870, passed at once under Democratic rule. In the same year North Carolina became Democratic. Texas and Arkansas remained under Republican sway until the majority shifted to the Democrats in 1874. In Alabama, the Democrats gained the Governorship and the lower House as early as 1870; two years later the result was disputed, the Democrats conceding the Governor but claiming the Legislature, while the Republicans organized a rival Legislature; the Republican Governor-elect called for United States troops, which were promptly dispatched, and with their backing a
Republican Legislature was secured. In 1874 a Democratic Governor and Legislature were chosen and installed without dispute. The Federal interference in Alabama, and the experience of others of the reconstructed States,-South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana,-recalls us to that phase of the history which deals with Washington and the national government.
Through the eight years of Grant's administration, the public life of the nation was concerned mainly with clearing away the wreckage left by the war. There was an enormous debt to be handled and an inflated currency to be reduced; there was to be curbed administrative extravagance and corruption, bred of profuse expenditure; a bitter quarrel with England was to be guided toward war or peace; and the disordered South was to be composed. These tasks were encountered by men whose habits and sentiments had been formed in a long and desperate contest, and in an atmosphere slowly cooling from the fiery glow of battle. The soldier had to beat his sword into a plowshare, and small wonder if the blacksmithing was sometimes clumsy.
Grant was too completely a soldier to be changed into a statesman. He could deal with a definite, limited, though gigantic business,—the overcoming of the armies of the Confederacy. But it was beyond his power to comprehend and master the manifold and intricate problems that center in the Presidency. Given a specific, well-defined question, within the reach of his sturdy sense and loyal purpose, and he could deal with it to good effect, as he did with the English arbitration and the Inflation bill. But he was incapable of far-reaching and constructive plans carefully laid and patiently pursued. When he communicated to Congress the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment, he urged in wise and forcible language that the new electorate
could only be qualified through education, and that to provide such education was a pressing duty of Congress so far as its power extended, and of the people through all the agencies it could command. But having once said this, he let the subject drop. National education for the freedmen was left unnoticed, save by an occasional lonely advocate like Sumner. Nor did President Grant take any personal and positive measures to win and hold the old South to the new order; he failed to invite and consult its representative men, he made no journeys among the people.
In most matters of public policy, save in emergencies, Grant let matters be shaped by the men whom he had taken into his counsel—in his official Cabinet or the “ kitchen cabinet ”—and by the Republican leaders in Congress, of whom the controlling group, especially in the Senate, were in close touch with the White House. His affiliations were with men of material power, men who had strongly administered civil or military affairs, stout partisans, faithful friends and vigorous haters. His tastes did not draw him to the idealists, the scholars, the reformers. He was accessible to good fellowship, he was easily imposed on by men who were seeking their own ends, and he was very slow to abandon any one whom he had once trusted. Absolutely honest, the thieves stole all round him. Magnanimous at heart, the bitter partisans often made him their tool. Of the great questions of the time, the English quarrel was brought to an admirable healing, under the management of the Secretary of State, Hamilton Fish, in 1871, by the joint high commission, the treaty of Washington, and the Geneva award. In the long contest for a sound currency, the inflation policy received its death-blow by the President's veto in 1874, and resumption was undertaken when Sherman carried his bill through Congress in 1875. As to honesty of administration, the president's good intentions