Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

The case of Louisiana was widely different. In that State the corruption of the Republican managers was flagrant; it extended to the manipulation of election returns; and the Federal Government interfered freely, and with notable results. A knot of knavish adventurers were in control, Henry C. Warmoth, William P. Kellogg, F. F. Casey, and United States Marshal S. B. Packard. Casey was the President's brother-in-law, and General Grant was almost as incapable of believing a relative of his to be a bad man as he was incapable of knowingly supporting a bad man. Casey was made collector of New Orleans, and was allowed to hold the Republican convention in the custom-house, with United States soldiers guarding the doors and regulating the admissions. As he and his crew were wrecking the finances of the State, there was in 1872 a general combination against them of the better elements,—they preferred the name “Conservatives” to “Democrats,"—and they claimed to have elected their candidate, John McEnery, as governor. Warmouth, who had been governor for a four years' term, had quarreled with his confederates over the division of plunder, and gone over to the Conservatives. He controlled the State returning-board, to which the laws intrusted a very elastic and dangerous power of throwing out returns from districts where intimidation was proved, and undertook to declare McEnery elected. But there was a split in the board; then two rival boards, one awarding the governorship to Kellogg and the other to McEnery.

The imbroglio was suddenly ended by the intervention of a United States judge, E. H. Durell, who issued a writ at midnight, directing the United States marshal, S. B. Packard, to occupy and hold the capitol, and ordering a detachment of United States troops to support the Kellogg government. This fixed the character of the State for the next four years, by perhaps the most lawless act done under the

name of law in this whole troubled period. It was perhaps only the overshadowing interest of the Presidential campaign that prevented its reversal by Congress,—that, and the lingering disposition of the North to pin faith on whatever wore the label “ Republican.”

McEnery kept up a shadowy claim to the governorship, with the countenance of the “respectable" element. But Kellogg and his pals had the actual administration, and used it to such effect that in two years the State bonds had fallen from seventy or eighty to twenty-five, and New Orleans city bonds from eighty or ninety to thirty or forty. In 1874 the Conservatives made a determined effort to carry the Legislature. There was an organization called “ The White League,”—a legitimate political society, said one side ;-a revival of the Ku-Klux spirit and methods in a more guarded form, said the other side. Beyond question, there was in Louisiana, at all stages of reconstruction, some degree of terrorism, and occasional acts of cruelty and outrage. There was knavery among the Radicals, and there was violence among the Conservatives. At the 1874 election the Conservatives were successful at the polls; but the State returningboard at once began to juggle with the returns so palpably that the Conservative member protested and resigned. The remainder of the board, after a month of diligent work, threw out a number of districts, on the pretext of intimidation, and as to five seats referred the question to the House itself. That body met, organized in a hasty and irregular fashion, and awarded the five seats to the Democratic claimants. But Governor Kellogg had the United States troops at his disposal, and by his command General De Trobriand with a file of soldiers entered the House and ejected the five Democrats,—whereupon the Republicans organized the House anew.

But now the whole country took alarm. The President

[ocr errors]

sent General Sheridan in haste to New Orleans, and his first dispatch sustained Kellogg, and threw the blame on the White League, to which Secretary of War Belknap telegraphed his full approval. But the affair transcended ordinary politics in its importance. New York spoke through Cooper Institute, and Boston by Faneuil Hall. Such citizens as Bryant, Evarts, and George T. Curtis led the protest. Congress rose above partisanship. A committee of the House, including such Republicans as George F. Hoar, William A. Wheeler, Charles Foster, William W. Phelps and William P. Frye, with Clarkson N. Potter and Samuel S. Marshall for the Democrats, visited New Orleans, and after full inquiry agreed that the returning-board had

wrongfully applied an erroneous rule of law”; that the five Democrats had been defrauded of their seats; and that the Louisiana House should be advised the national House having no compulsory power-to “repair this great injustice.” The two Democrats went further, and declared that Governor Kellogg himself held by no rightful tenure. But the Republicans backed a compromise offered by Wheeler, which the Louisianians accepted, the Democrats took the Legislature, while the Republicans kept the governorship. The returning board survived, to put in its deadly work two years later.

CHAPTER XXXV

RECONSTRUCTION: THE LAST ACT

We turn back to the course of national politics. The Republican triumph of 1872 was followed by an overwhelming reverse at the Congressional election of 1874. There was a growing impression of maladministration at Washington. The Credit Mobilier scandal—the easy acceptance by Congressmen of financial favors from the managers of the Union Pacific Railway, followed by disingenuous denialshad especially discredited the party in power. There had been a great financial reverse in 1873, such as is always charged in the popular mind against the ruling powers. The South had increased its Democratic vote. So from various causes, in the new House the Republicans passed from a majority of one hundred to a minority of forty; with New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and even Massachusetts, in the Democratic column.

But the clique of bitter partisans and radicals, with whom President Grant had become closely associated, if they took warning from the election, drew the inference that they must make good use of the brief time left them in the final term of the old Congress. While the Louisiana imbroglio was still seething, the President sent a message, in February, 1875, recommending that the State government of Arkansas he declared illegal. It had held an unquestioned tenure for two years, and the proposal to oust it was simply in the interest of its two Senators, Powell Clayton and Stephen W. Dorsey, who belonged to the Grant faction. At the same time there was brought forward a comprehensive

measure, popularly known as the “Force bill,” bringing every form of violence or intimidation of the blacks within the jurisdiction of the United States courts; putting elections under supervision and control of the Federal officials, and giving the President large power for the supervision of the habeas corpus. Another long debated measure aimed at the fuller enforcement of civil rights-a bill good in itself, said the moderate Republicans; better if a part of a general pacification ; but with its present accompaniment it is “civil rights prodded in with bayonets.” In the Republican press of the country, and in the party in Congress as well as the opposition, the battle over these measures was hot. The administration organ in Washington gave big type and prominent display to the paragraph: “The passage of the bill ”—the Force bill—“ is required to preserve to the Republican party the electoral vote of the Southern States." The President's personal influence was used to its limits. Butler's unscrupulous tactics were all employed. But the weight, if not the numbers, of the House Republicans, rose in opposition. Forty of them, including Garfield, Dawes, the Hoars, Hawley, Hale, Pierce, Poland, and Kasson, joined with the Democrats under the able leadership of Samuel J. Randall. In the House, brains and conscience were beaten by patronage; the bill went through. But it went no further,-in spite of Morton and Conkling the Senate served again the useful function of obstruction. The Arkansas bill was beaten in the House. Only the Civil Rights bill became a law. Independence among Republicans had saved the party from its most dangerous leadership.

It was perhaps this result, following the reverse of 1874, that disinclined Grant to further interference in the South, and held his hand when Governor Ames asked aid in Mississippi. The Louisiana business had so shown the risks of Federal intervention in local affairs, that even the best

« AnteriorContinuar »