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penny-wise economy. The petition makes perhaps the strongest impression in its statement that the boards of supervisors, controlling local taxation, are, as a general rule, “wholly unfit to discharge their duties, and without respectability or even accountability"; that the public works under their care are recklessly and carelessly managed, and the county taxes are grievous. It would seem that in these local bodies, especially in the “black counties,” lay the worst of the taxpayers' grievance.
Judge Story makes a vigorous retort, testifying after a year of Democratic administration, 1875-6, as to the question of comparative expense. He shows that the State tax had indeed been reduced from 91 mills to 64 mills, but this only by cutting off outright the school tax of two mills. Not to follow further the labyrinth of figures, it is interesting to note, as to the favorite term “carpet-bagger,” that of the six Republican candidates for Congress in Mississippi, in 1876, only one was of Northern birth, and he had married and lived in the South since the war; one had been an old Southern Democrat and a circuit judge; two had been Confederate officers; and one, John R. Lynch, was a colored man of high intelligence and excellent character. He, as Speaker of the House, and B. K. Bruce, United States Senator, were among the colored men who showed capacity and character worthy of the high positions they attained. Among the Republican leaders of Northern birth were some who were honored and trusted in their old homes; such men as General Eggleston, president of the Constitutional convention; Colonel Warner, afterward State Treasurer of Connecticut, and Henry W. Warren, of Massachusetts. The first Republican governor, J. M. Alcorn, was a Southern man, very able, but apparently not of the highest moral standards. His successor, Adelbert Ames, was from Massachusetts, conceded now to have been “honest and brave,
but narrow and puritanical,” and with the mysterious trait of “ hating the Aryan race of the South.”
These last words are quoted from the story of an old friend of the reader's,—Thomas Dabney, the “Southern planter," whose noble character was sketched in chapter XII. He had fought a brave fight with poverty and hardship since the war, and as we come again into his company for a moment, it is with a sense of confidence which even official documents do not inspire. He had no doubt of the oppressiveness of Republican rule, and the need of shaking it off by vigorous measures. It is related that the taxes on his plantation for 1873 were over $900, while the income was less than $800. Yet one letter tells that he is in laughing humor" because he has just paid his taxes for 1875—only $375,-a reduction of more than half-and this was still under Republican rule.
One other witness may be heard, the writer's life-long friend, Henry W. Warren, now of Holden, Mass. To those who know him his name is a synonym for integrity, efficiency and modesty; he is one of the men who never seek a public honor and never decline a public service. From his own words some statements are here condensed. “After graduating at Yale in 1865, I was called to a position as public school teacher at Nashville, Tenn.; and from there, seeing a promising opportunity, I went with two friends to work a cotton plantation in one of the 'white' counties of Mississippi. We bought it from its old owner, who had kept his slaves in his employ as paid laborers, and they continued to work for us. As slaves they had not been badly treated, except by the overseer during the master's absence. Many of the whites of the county, owning no slaves, had been indifferent to the Confederate cause, and many of them had served in its army only when hunted by the conscription officer, sometimes with bloodhounds. More than a few of
them were Republicans. I was asked to serve as registrar of voters for the Constitutional convention, being one of the few who could take the 'iron-clad oath' (that is, that he had never aided the Confederacy) and this led to my going to the convention, and afterward to the Legislature. The Speaker dying, I was chosen to his place for the rest of the term. Our county going Democratic, I was not re-elected; but I was chosen chief clerk of the House, and served for four years, after my two years as a member. All the Democrats united in signing a paper, asking me to be always present in the House,—this was after I had induced the Speaker to change a mistaken ruling. So I was in a position to know pretty well what was going on. From the first there were plenty of Confederate generals and colonels in the Legislature.” (The excluding clauses were struck out of the Mississippi constitution at the start.) “The manner of the blacks to the whites was habitually civil, and something of the slave's deference to the white man remained. I think the legislation was generally of reasonably good character. I knew positively of but little corruption. That there was some corruption and more extravagance, I have no doubt. But I have served since in the Massachusetts Legislature, and I think the Southern State was but little worse than the Northern. The negro members, though with some able and honest leaders of their own, like Bruce and Lynch, followed largely the prominent white men. Of the Northerners whom I knew, almost all were men of substance and had come to stay. Six out of ten owned plantations. A carpet-bagger 'I hardly ever met, though no doubt there were some,-but the name was given to all Northerners. As to expense, you must remember that the State had to be completely rehabilitated. The war had ruined everything; public buildings were destroyed or dilapidated; and under military rule things had simply been kept going. Everything had
to be reconstructed. The slaves had become citizens, and that doubled the number to be provided for. There had been practically no public schools, and they were set up throughout the State. Taxes had fallen largely on slave property, now they came on land. So it was inevitable that there should be an increase of taxation. About county taxes I have no special knowledge, though in our locality they certainly were not burdensome. In some of the black counties it may have been worse. The Republicans, both blacks and whites, were drilled in the 'Loyal League of America,'—it was a purely political organization, often meeting in the woods at night. In those years there was immense progress on the part of the negroes, political discussion was educational. I think if the Federal government had provided better school education, and had protected the voters at the polls, all might have gone well. That there was more or less of extravagance on the part of the Legislature is not to be denied. So there is in Massachusetts. That there was anything to justify the means resorted to in 1875 and 1876 to get complete control of the State government, might safely be questioned.”
What those means were, there is no serious question. The Democrats organized a campaign of clubs, processions, enthusiasm, and intimidation. The better part would have disclaimed the last feature, but they did not prevent it. Thomas Dabney was among the leaders. He relates that the best men were brought out for the nominations, often against their own desire. He, in his old age, was made president of the local club, and kept busy with marchings, meetings, and barbecues. He quotes sympathetically the response of a friend to his remark that the uprising was wonderful: “Uprising? It is no uprising. It is an insurrection.” He relates that at Clinton the Republicans got up a riot, that they might have a pretext for asking President
Grant for troops. “ They succeeded in getting up their riot, which was put down by our own people after so sanguinary a fashion as to strike them with a terror not easily described.” There can be no doubt as to the guinary fashion " and the “terror.” Testimony abounds of the invasion of Republican meetings, enforced demands on the Republican speakers to “divide the time," with threats and occasional violence. Sometimes the meetings were prevented, sometimes they were broken up. There was a great deal of terrorizing and now and then a murder. In some cases the officers at the polls interposed so many hindrances that many of the negroes were unable to vote. There was but a handful of Federal troops in the State, and the President declined to send more at Governor Ames's request. The reign of terror was effective. Once again we quote Mr. Warren: “In our part of the country there were constant parades of the 'red-shirted cavalry,' and the negroes were thoroughly frightened. Two rough fellows once assailed me with threats and abuse, but drew off when I stood my ground. When the election came on, to get our ballots printed I had to go to New Orleans; spies dogged me in going and coming; and as with a friend I rode toward home, we were beset and besieged in a planter's house, that they might get possession of the ballots. Finally we rode away on an unguarded road, pistol in hand, and escaped. But they afterward captured and destroyed a part of the ballots, and by such means they carried the local election. By such means and more violent measures they carried the State.”
The Democratic Legislature now proceeded to impeach Governor Ames, on frivolous charges, but agreed to drop the proceedings if he would resign, which he did, and left the State, knowing that his trial would be a farce. In 1876 the campaign was of the same character as in 1875, and so Mississippi was “redeemed."