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cess to which this proceeding was carried was shown in the House debate on the resolution ostensibly looking to the investigation of the bills presented for furnishing the legislative halls. Upon the first question made the roll call was demanded, and it was repeated so that for two hours or more the House voted by ayes and noes upon matters nowise germane to that question. On this occasion the dilatory tactics appeared to be in the hands of W. J. Whipper and Benjamin Byas, a mulatto member from Orangeburg. On every question announced Byas would say: "Mr. Speaker, I call the ayes and noes." "Second the call,” said Whipper, keeping his seat and occasionally turning his eyes to right or left to get the approving glance of some member. For days this procedure continued until, as already related, the resolution was defeated.
In minor matters—an immaterial amendment—the change of names in the list of corporators in a bill to form some company some local measure manifestly foredoomed to defeat—the motion to adjourn or to take a recess—the various parliamentary devices to sidetrack a bill or smother a resolution—the call of the roll in both Senate and House was carried to an excess which, corrupt purposes not imputed, involved criminal waste of the public money.
Discussions were prolonged to absurd lengths—sometimes with the actual purpose to kill time, but frequently because of the maudlin incapacity of some of the speakers. Ben Byas, for example, was more than once known to talk an hour upon a single matter-indeed, one of his speeches against the impeachment of Governor Scott consumed quite two hours. Having the floor he could keep it unless he should yield—and yield he would not. This particular speech was a mixture of ignorance and insolence, without even the appearance of thought or the semblance of argument. Byas was a burly fellow with a hard face, ignorant, insolent, vindictive and corrupt—whose presence in the Legislature was a continuing outrage upon the white race in South Carolina and equally a disgrace to the Republican party everywhere.
There were some good speakers among the negroes—their imitative faculty enabling them, even though lacking the knowledge to read well or to write anything but their own names, to make speeches that really sounded well and, truth to tell, were marked by few faults of grammar and fewer still of style. One striking case, under the writer's personal notice, will serve to illustrate conditions in this
particular obtaining in every county-an illustration also of the quasi-oratorical powers of the well-developed negro. Andrew B. Stewart was a leader in his neighborhood in Fairfield County. Of a height a little above medium, a fine figure, with a complexion almost jet black, a well-formed head which was kept nicely cropped, a set of teeth that might well have excited the envy of some Adonis of the white race, a rather shapely hand, and a foot a little unlike the ordinary negro's, Andy had also a voice of unusual power with no harshness, which he had always under excellent control. His language was homely but rarely ungrammatical, his expression at every stage most admirable, his gestures natural, graceful, timely --though the ideas given out betrayed both his want of education (he was well-nigh illiterate) and his totally untrained mind. He had little sense of right, rose to local prominence only, and never went to the Legislature—though, truth to tell, he was in all things the equal of most of the colored men who represented his county in either branch of that body.
The Rev. H. H. Hunter, a member from Charleston, at the session of 1870-71 made a most excellent speech against Whipper's proposition to send State troops (meaning negroes) to restore peace in Union County--a speech full of good counsel to his race and of the desire for peace and justice, coupled with a respectful demand upon the white people to do their part. The speaker's English was really excellent, his sentences well constructed and very rarely broken in the haste of utterance, his cadences well done and his pauses so well distributed that the emphasis given to his main propositions was very striking, whilst his approach to the climax of his appeal was as smooth as the appeal itself was actually powerful. Yet this good speaker at another time exposed his 'want of culture in a poorly written, ill-constructed letter sent by him to Josephus Woodruff, complaining that a certain pay certificate given by the latter for Hunter's "services” in connection with a claim of the Republican Printing Company had proven so unmarketable as to subject the reverend member to serious loss.
This man Hunter, though a regular preacher of the gospel, had quite a share of the plunder while a member of the Legislature. He received a good sum as his part of the spoils in the passage of the claims for furnishing the halls, and shared also in other dishonest schemes.
W. J. Whipper was said by some of his party to be easily among the very ablest colored men in public life in this State. He showed considerable shrewdness, but was not generally thought to be either capable or well informed. A paper drawn by him in court in 1869 indicated a degree of ignorance of everyday English, not at all justifying the claim of some of his white and colored associates that he was a highly educated man. As a member of the commission to codify the laws (1869-71) he showed gross incapacity. He was but a fairly good speaker—though it is possible that had he not so often used his powers to stir up strife and promote villainous schemes there might have been a different estimate of his ability. Corrupt to the core, always insolent, fond of flaunting his stolen money in the faces of white men, a mouthy incendiary in great part responsible for every race trouble in South Carolina, a coward, a blackleg and a perjurer, he was a good specimen of the leaders whom the Republican party raised up for the negroes in South Carolina.
R. B. Elliott, already noticed, illustrated the somewhat rare combination presented by the knave in the person of an educated man apparently having every incentive to lead an honest life. Elliott was unquestionably the ablest negro that figured in the Reconstruction period in South Carolina—an excellent speaker and a fine presiding officer. Yet he was officially corrupt and personally without any regard for decency or morality.
June Mobley—Junius S. he put it-was ignorant, without the accompaniment of any of the gifts which belonged to the negroes already mentioned. He was a bright mulatto, of poor figure, no presence, and a repelling countenance. His specialty was the making of incendiary speeches to the more ignorant among his race—thus leading them into trouble while he dodged the consequences. He accomplished nothing but to cause bloodshed in which men of his own race almost exclusively suffered. In the Legislature he but exposed his dense ignorance, his vicious purposes, his cowardly hatred of every white man as such, and his total lack of moral character. Yet he maintained to the end his standing in the Republican party.
Dr. B. A. Bosemon, a mulatto carpetbagger, who was one of the Charleston delegation in the House in 1868-70 and later, was a man of unusual intelligence, considerable information and inordinate vanity. He passed as one of the few honest men of his party, but he
fell by the wayside-having taken a bribe from the Republican Printing Company. The writer's opinion of Bosemon's alleged purity of character was formed when the Doctor came from a committee room, thick-tongued from drinking champagne paid for with the money stolen from the State treasury—the drinking acknowledged by him in declining some request (possibly to take some more champagne?) made of him by a fellow member.
Such were some of the types among the leading negroes. The white men were chiefly inconspicuous, their principal performances being in the secret making of schemes of robbery.
The Senate and the House were alike controlled and "run" by a few leaders. The greater number of the members had little to say and nothing to do. They simply voted—very frequently voting for inan or measure because they had been bought with money to do so.
Much time was consumed in the passage of unimportant matters--the number of acts incorporating societies running up into the dozens at every session. The negroes were fond of having their societies and these wanted charters from the Legislature. Many of the charters were never used. Some of the societies had peculiar names—such as the Young Men's Africanus Debating Club of Charleston, the Young Men's Free Enterprise Council of Georgetown, the American Union Literary Club of Gadsden, Richland County, the Refulgent Society of Columbia, the Reform Apollo Society of Charleston, the Rising Sons of Benevolence of Edgefield, the Elliott Republican Club of Barnwell, the Union Republican Wide Awake Association of Charleston, the Young Sons of Honor, the True Blue Union Republican Society and the Planters' Republican Society of St. Helena Island, the Sons' and Daughters' Cain Manuel Society of Charleston, the Grant and Wilson National Guards of Charleston, the Ladies and Gentlemen of Charity Society of Lady Island, the Christian Hope Society of Paris Island. Numbers of charters were needlessly granted to companies of the negro militia.
Citizens desiring to form a company had, of course, to go to the Legislature for their charter; and to the names in the original bill the committee of the House or the Senate would add the names of leading Republicans, taking care to include several negroes—this with the purpose to enforce quasi-social recognition and intercourse. In some instances the men thus made corporators would attend the
meeting for organization—this for the purpose of mingling with the gentlemen whose names were in the original bill.
Useless lawmaking and the constant waste of time continued through the Chamberlain administration, notwithstanding that the members each drew a salary and not a per diem allowance. The session of 1875-76 consumed 109 days, not counting the Christmas recess and also excluding Sundays.
The handsome and also comfortable furnishings of the legislative halls served possibly to lengthen the sessions. To a man accustomed to a house of the plainest sort and to furniture of the roughest kind the opportunity to sit on a cushioned chair or a sofa of velvet surface—meantime having a page to buy his pinders or bring him water in a cut-glass goblet-presented a very strong temptation to linger amid his new surroundings.
The ignorance of the legislators never appeared in the bills or resolutions as seen by the public—care being taken to have these framed or rewritten by a competent draughtsman. An example of this procedure is shown in the following paper introduced in February, 1874, by one Tarleton, a colored representative from Colleton:
Resolved by the House of Representatives the Senate concurren, that whereas the leageslatures of South Carolina had conveane by his Excellency the governor F. J. Moses, Jr., the 21 of Oct. 1873 for the purpose of the Reduction of the Bounding dept. of the State.
and whereas the Leageslators are failed to imbracing the Bounding which is Required as a Servant to the People interest but from day after day introduce Bill and Resolution which is know servance to the people; therefor Be it Resolved that the House now adjourn sine die.
In the official journal of the House the paper appeared as follows:
Whereas, the Legislature of South Carolina was convened by his Excellency the Governor, Franklin J. Moses, Jr., on the 21st of October, 1873, for the purpose of reducing the bonded debt of the State; and whereas the Legislature has failed to take any measures tending to effect such reduction, which was a duty demanded of them as faithful servants of the people; and whereas bills and resolutions of no public interest are introduced day after day; therefore be it
Resolved by the House of Representatives, the Senate concurring, that the General Assembly adjourn this day sine die.
The resolution was tabled.
The following letter written by a colored man in the summer of 1876 to the Republican county chairman of Marion well illustrates the attainments of many who, after eight years of opportunity,