« AnteriorContinuar »
THREE TROUBLED STATES
In Grant's second term, the divergence between the Republicans on Southern questions, though never taking permanent form, often found marked and effective expression. In the Senate, the controlling group, who were also the special friends and allies of Grant, were radicals, and generally of a more materialistic class than the earlier leaders. Fessenden had died in 1869; Sumner was alienated, and died in 1874; Wilson had passed into the insignificance of the VicePresidency; Trumbull was in opposition. At the front were Chandler, of Michigan; Oliver P. Morton, War Governor of Illinois, powerful and partisan; Roscoe Conkling, of New York, showy and arrogant. In the House the foremost man was James G. Blaine, Speaker until with the Democratic majority he became leader of the opposition; brilliant in speech, fascinating and “magnetic” in personal intercourse, always prominent and popular, but almost never closely identified with any great principle or constructive measure. Very prominent on the floor was General Butler, a foremost radical toward the South ; always a storm-center; an advocate of inflation, an ally of most bad causes, an effective mischief-maker; followed, feared, and hated with equal ardor. The membership of the House was notable for able men,—the Hoar brothers, Henry L. Pierce, Eugene Hale, Dawes, Hawley, Poland, Garfield, Kasson, and others of almost equal mark. The death of Thaddeus Stevens, in 1868, had left the House without a master. The Greeley
campaign, disastrous though it was, had started a contagious spirit of independence. During Grant's second administration, 1873-7, there was shown in the House, on important questions, a degree of independence rare in American politics. It was the growing Republican opposition to Federal interference in the South that hastened its end, and prepared the way for the consummation of that result under President Hayes.
We now return to the individual cases of three Southern States. To South Carolina fell the bitterest experience of misgovernment. Its black majority was organized and led by a group of white men of the worst character, who were resisted for a time without success by a better element in the party. Under four years' administration of Governor R. K. Scott, a Northerner, and two of F. J. Moses, Jr., a South Carolinian—who later disappeared from public view in a penitentiary,-money was lavished in profligate expenditure; hundreds of thousands spent for legislative furniture and luxuries; franchises were corruptly sold; bogus enterprises enriched; debt piled up by millions, and thrown off by millions. (Repudiation, be it said, always came easily to the South,-before the war and after; during reconstruction and after; whether the borrowed money had been spent for railroads or squandered by thieves; and the ghost of an unpaid $300,000,000 still scares Southern Senators when a general arbitration treaty is discussed.) South Carolina went from bad to worse for six years.
When, in 1872, the honest Republicans bolted, under an unimpeachable candidate, Reuben Tomlinson, a Philadelphia Quaker, and gave him 35,000 votes, the Democrats stood scornfully aloof—" better a native thief than an honest Yankee!” But in 1874 came a revolution in the Republican ranks. Honesty triumphed, under the lead of the elected governor, Daniel H. Chamberlain, of Massachusetts birth
and education,-a remarkable man; shrewd, long-headed, a past master in political management; with high aims; by no means indifferent to personal success, but generally succeeding in combining personal and public service. With a Legislature in which two-thirds were Republicans, and whites and blacks were about equal in number, he achieved a surprising reversal of the evil tendencies that had prevailed. In the Legislature the best of the Democrats backed him, together with the best of the Republicans, and overmatched the corruptionists. Stealing was stopped; the abuses of the pardoning power were ended; the tax laws were amended so as to secure uniformity and equality of assessment; expenditure was reduced and regulated. These were the statements of the Charleston News and Courier, the leading paper of the State, in July, 1876, when another election was coming on.
Most of the Democratic papers had praised and supported Governor Chamberlain. It was now very seriously contemplated, and advocated by the News and Courier, to let him be re-elected without opposition. But the old-time pride of race and party was too strong, and the Democrats nominated Wade Hampton. They supported him with little scruple as to means,—with free use of intimidation and proscription, with frequent threats and often the reality of violence. There was a shocking massacre at Hamburg. Governor Chamberlain called on the President for aid, and a thousand troops were sent into the State. When the election came, there was claimed a majority for Chamberlain and for the Republican Presidential ticket. The claim was instantly and fiercely challenged by Hampton's supporters. And here the story pauses, until it joins the main current of national affairs.
Mississippi was under Republican control until 1875. If one attempts to judge of the character of that control, he plunges into a sea of contradictions almost enough to sub
merge the hope of truth. Whether we turn to standard historians, to the 1000 pages of sworn testimony before a Congressional committee, or to individual witnesses, the perplexity is the same. Thus, we consult Woodrow Wilson's History of the American People,—and this book invites a word of comment. Its author has woven together the immense material of the national history for three centuries, in the main with admirable judgment and skill. He has produced a comprehensive, well-proportioned, graphic narrative, which closely holds the reader's attention, and gives in general the spirit as well as the substance of the people's story. But upon the main theme of the crowning century, he misses some of the vital elements. Of the wrong and mischief of slavery he has hardly a word, waving the subject aside as if beyond his province. He gives with admirable sympathy and intelligence the attitude of the well-meaning Southerner before and after the war; and this feature has special value for those familiar only with the Northern standpoint. But he has not the least appreciation of the anti-slavery spirit in its heroic phase. On the wrongs of the slave he is silent, while upon the sins of the carpetbagger he is eloquent. This one-sidedness robs of its significance what should be the American epic of the nineteenth century.
Of the misgovernment of Mississippi, Dr. Wilson instances that “before the work of the carpet-baggers was done, 640,000 acres of land had been forfeited for taxes, twenty per cent. of the total acreage of the State.” The nearest atlas or gazetteer is enough to check this statement. The total acreage of the State is 29,640,000,—of which 640,000 is not twenty per cent., but a trifle over two per cent. Dr. Wilson goes on to say that the State tax levy in 1874 was fourteen times as great as in 1869. This is apparently taken from the “Taxpayers' petition " of 1875, but froin
whatever source, it gives an utterly exaggerated impression. Before the Congressional committee Judge H. R. Ware, chairman of the State Republican committee,-a Kentuckian by birth, and a life-long resident of Mississippi,—gave his testimony; and it included documents showing that the total State expense during the last two years of Democratic rule, 1864 and '65, was $1,410,250 and $1,860,809; for twenty years of Democratic administration, throwing out the extra expenses of the war period, the average cost was $699,200; under military government (always the cheapest) in 1869 it was $563,219; while under the Republicans in 1875 it was $618,259; and the average for six Republican years had been $992,920. When the Republicans came in, they had to make payments in warrants worth only sixty-five cents on the dollar, with proportionate increase of expense; they had to provide for a free population doubled by the emancipation of the slaves, and for the last four years they had made an annual reduction.
Yet the “Taxpayers' petition ”—addressed to the Legislature early in 1875, and without effect,—must be taken as evidence of at least a considerable extravagance and waste. A reading of it gives the impression of a needless multiplication of offices and excessive salaries. The public printing seems clearly a scandal, running above $73,000 a year, as against a cost in the sister State of Georgia of only $10,000. The general charge seems to be of laxness and needlessly high salaries rather than any wholesale corruption. Some question as to the justice of the general charge occurs when a point is encountered as to the payment of teachers in the public schools. The petitioners claim that this should be reduced to $25 a month for second-class schools, and $50 a month for first-class schools. In fact, when the Democrats came into power, they reduced the rate to $40 a month,which, for a school year of four months only, seems like