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garded as valid and be observed as law until declared void by the proper department of the government. Every presumption was in favor of their validity, as also of the validity of executive acts. The proclamation must therefore be regarded as in force until decided otherwise; when so decided, parties would be absolved from obligation of the oath. But were not those who believed the proclamation void too sanguine in their opinions ? The law of nations authorizes one belligerent party to do whatever would strengthen himself and weaken his enemy.
The governor would not say that the principle was broad enough to cover the taking of slaves. The people in the southern States were in rebellion; the President of the United States had a right to prescribe terms of amnesty; he had done so, and the people should cheerfully take the oath and observe it in good faith. “Why should they now hesitate or doubt, since slavery had ceased to be a practical question.” It had been the cause of the war, now decided against the South. The negroes were free, practically as well as theoretically,—by the fortunes of war, by proclamation, by common consent. It would be a bad policy now to undertake to change their condition, even if it could be done. It would be nothing less than an effort to establish slavery where it did not exist.2 Briefly, the governor's advice to the delegates was to submit to the inevitable and to do their best to harmonize all difficulties; for the great purpose of restoring relations with the government of the United States.
It would be expected that a constitutional convention, summoned at a time when the smoke of war had not cleared away, would enroll some members whose hearts were bitter toward the National Government, and who
1 On this point, see note, p. 72. 2 Journal, pp. 6-7.
would contribute to restore Federal relations with many mental reservations. There were outspoken Union men in Mississippi at this time, but they were few. The real opinion of many of the delegates was undoubtedly expressed by a member from Wilkinson County while yet a candidate for the convention. To his surprise, he said, he had heard the rumor that he was “an unconditional, immediate emancipationist,--and abolitionist.” The rumor was false, and he had been misunderstood, if believed to favor a policy that wronged and would impoverish his country. No man should believe him ready to advocate the abolition of an institution for which he had contended so long, and which he was as fully persuaded as ever was the true status of the negro. Slavery had been abolished by force. The people of Mississippi must accept the situation until they could get control once more of their own State affairs. They could not do otherwise if they would regain their place in the Union, and occupy a position and exert an influence for protecting themselves against further and greater evils which threatened them."
The delegates to this convention were not elected on a strictly defined party issue, “but upon their individual merits as to their character, intelligence and standing in society.” Most of the members were of that large class in the South at this time who had yielded submission to the national government under necessity; who realized that the war had made irreversible changes in public and
1 W. L. Brandon to the voters of Wilkinson County, August 6, 1865; see also speeches of Richard Cooper, a member of the Convention; Hon. Sylvanus Evans, candidate for Congress, and Attorney-General; Vicksburg, September 19, 1865, Id. pp. 63-66; quoted in the Message of the President, December 19, 1865, containing the reports of Carl Schurz and Lieutenant-General Grant. House of Representatives, Executive Document, Thirty-Ninth Congress, first session, p. 101.
PLANS TO RESTORE THE STATE.
private affairs, and who were honestly endeavoring to accommodate themselves to the new order of things. This class consisted of planters, professional men and merchants, past middle life. The second class, more numerous and active, but less influential, were intent on restoring the States to their former position and influence in the Union in order as quickly as possible to get absolute control of their domestic affairs. Of this class the delegate from Wilkinson County was a type. Such men actively supported the reconstruction policy of President Johnson, and clamored for the withdrawal of the Federal troops and the abolition of the Freedmen's Bureau.
A third group consisted chiefly of young men, many of whom had come to their majority during the war, and who were hoping for a time when the Southern Confederacy would achieve its independence. Among them were many loiterers of the towns and idlers of the country, who delighted in persecuting loyal men and negroes whenever they could do so with impunity. Their hatred of the Federal soldiers showed itself in all sorts of petty annoyances. This class did the loud talking; excited the passions and prejudices of the illiterate and unscrupulous, and was immediately responsible for most of the crimes and misdemeanors of these dark days. It was natural that all people of the South who had supported the Confederacy, -and the greater part of the population of Mississippi had supported it,-should have feelings of resentment and aversion at the sight of a Federal soldier.
1 Id. p. 5. An instance of atrocity committed by two of these "honorable young men” was reported by Colonel John L. Gilchrist, Jackson, Miss., September 17, 1865, Id. p. 69; see list of colored men killed or maimed by white men and treated at Post Hospital, Montgomery, reported by Acting Staff Surgeon J. M. Phipps, August 21, 1865, and at Freedman's Hospital by Assistant Surgeon J. E. Harvey, August 21, 1865, Id. pp. 70-71.
Their attitude toward resident Unionists was quite the same. If the troops were withdrawn, the lives of northern men in Mississippi would not be safe." If garrisons were withdrawn from a county, murders of white Union men and of negroes followed.
A like condition of affairs prevailed in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and the Carolinas. The war had destroyed the industrial system of the South. The former slaves were afloat in society; many of them had wild and savage ideas; and most of them had no conception of the civil conditions of which they formed so embarrassing a part. The old feelings of kindness toward the race, which had characterized the South, were suddenly turned into those of fear and hatred. The negroes distrusted their former masters and were rapidly learning to distrust their new protectors and official friends,—the Federal troops. They inclined to distrust anyone who would not acquiesce in their grotesque demands. Trade and commerce in the South being almost at a standstill, there was little demand for labor, and thousands of negroes, accustomed all their lives to care and regular employment, were suddenly thrust upon society with nothing to do, and little disposition to work. That the negro would not work unless compelled to was a common saying of the time. The in
i Governor Sharkey to Carl Schurz, Id. p. 8.
2 Id. p. 9. See the report of Brigadier-General T. K. Smith, New Orleans, September 14, 1865, Id. pp. 57-59; of Major-General E. Joseph Osterhaus, Jackson, Miss., August 22, 1865, to General Schurz. Id. pp. 59-61; of General Charles R. Woods, Mobile, Ala., September 9, 1865, Id. pp. 61-62; of Captain W. A. Poillon, Mobile, Ala., September 9, 1865, Id. pp. 72-74; of Major-General J. P. Houston, Selma, Ala., August 22, 1865, Id. pp. 71-72; of Lieutenant-Colonel H. R. Brinkerhoff, Clinton, Miss., July 8, 1865, Id. pp. 75-76; of Captain J. H. Weber, Vicksburg, Miss., September 28, 1865, Id. pp. 77-78; of Governor Sharkey, Jackson, Miss., August 19, 1865, Id. p. 103,
STATUS OF THE NEGROES.
dustrial circumstances were unfortunately exceptional, and a new system of labor had to be created.
Though the slaves were now free, it was the common and freely expressed belief that all the blacks in some way belonged to the whites, and that the negro must be satisfied with what he could get. In many instances, negroes were still kept in slavery, and, in their efforts to escape, were cruelly treated, and sometimes killed. In many districts scarcely a white man could be found who believed that black men had rights which a white man was bound to respect; to kill a negro might be a foolish thing, but not a crime. The heartfelt wish of the white people was to get rid of the whole black population. The freedmen were the objects of unreasonable resentment, based on the notion, that they were the cause of the war and all its calamities.
The attitude of the South to the freedmen was almost identical with its attitude toward free persons of color before the war. Cities and towns became rendezvous of hordes of vagrant negroes, and, in self-defense, enacted regulations even more severe than the old code against free persons of color. The practical purpose of the new acts was to get rid of the negro. He should not be suffered to practice a trade, or to rent a house, or to engage in barter or sale. If by the letter of the law he ventured to trade, or work on his own account, he was subject to an excessive tax wholly beyond his capacity to pay.' Indeed, he was not allowed to be occupied in any way except as a laborer hired to an employer. To him he should be bound much as he had been bound to his master in the
1 See ordinance relative to freedmen in the town of Opelousas, the Parish of St. Landry, and the town of Franklin, Louisiana, July 3, 15 and 28, 1865; and the ordinance of the City of Vicksburg, Miss., August 7, 1865, Id. pp. 92-99.