Page images



The Reconstruction Era, 1865-1877


73. The Undoing of Reconstruction and Its Effects


28 X

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Conditions in Alabama Democrats elect governor - Carpet-bag government superseded The BrooksBaxter war in Arkansas - Democrats regain State Governor Davis of Texas defeated by Democratic nominee, Richard Coke —“ Shot-gun" methods in Mississippi - Prevalency of corruption Success of Democrats Impeachment of State officials Enormous frauds in Louisiana - Negro legislators — Usurpation of government by Kellogg faction Backed by Grant Open warfare -McEnery faction submits - Riots and bloodshed - Battle between Metropolitan Police and White League-Government troops sent and order restored- - Disputes in legislature-Protests sent from Northern cities Kellogg and others impeached - South Carolina debt and taxes - Furnishings of State House Queer supplies for legislators Composition of legislature Gradual emancipation.

In chapter VII was shown the manner in which several of the Southern States passed from under the control of the radicals. In 1874 three other States, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas, overthrew the reconstruction régime and in 1875 Mississippi followed, leaving Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina still under carpet-bag governments.*

In Alabama the governor and lower house of the legislature had been elected in 1870 by the Democrats. The senate still remained Republican, however, and in 1872 the Republicans again came into power, electing the governor and with the aid of Federal troops securing the majority in the legislature. Under this régime the State became worse than bankrupt, and the taxes soared beyond all reason. In 1860 the rate of taxation

On general conditions see Fleming, Documentary History, vol. ii., chap. viii.

† For methods of compiling poll lists see Charles Nordhoff, The Cotton States in the Spring and Summer of 1875, pp. 85–89 (D. Appleton & Co.)

was one-fifth of one per cent. on a portion of the wealth of the State, but this rate had risen by 1868 to three-fourths of one per cent. representing an eightfold increase, considering the vast difference in the value of property. Expenditures for State purposes, which had amounted to $530,107 in 1860, increased to $2,081,649.39 in 1873 and the State debt advanced from $4,065,410 in 1866 to $30,037,563 in 1874, beside which a city and county debt amounting to about $12,000,000 was piled up, so that the total of State, city and county debts amounted to about 65 per cent. of the assessed valuation of the farm lands of the State.

This was mainly due to the policy adopted by the State in 1867 of endorsing the bonds of new railroads at the rate of $16,000 for each mile actually constructed. But the roads obtained endorsements not only for what was actually constructed but for hundreds of miles that were never constructed; one road road alone - the


Alabama and Chattanooga securing $5,300,000, of which $1,300,000 represented unconstructed lines. By this method the State treasury was mulcted of about $14,000,000, though the exact total was never known. The State school fund in 1873 was also found to be short $1,260,511.92, all of which the legislature had illegally diverted to other purposes, and in several counties the school funds were embezzled by the officials. Approximately $15,000,000 of the State debt was afterward repudiated.*

The carpet-bag government was split by an internal fight among the carpet-baggers, negroes and scalawags over the patronage of State offices, whereas the Democrats had become well organized and were well led. The chief issue in the election of 1874 was black domination, and the desertion of whites on this issue from the radical party, which was composed of ninetenths negroes and one-tenth whites, further weakened the carpet-baggers. Therefore the Democrats were able to elect their candidate, George S. Houston; the radicals were soon expelled from office, and the Republican party was so shattered that it has never since gained control over the State. An investigating committee sent by Congress reported that the election had been gained by fraud, but at this time there was a growing disposition on the part of the Federal government to leave the Southern State governments to themselves, and therefore

* Cox, Three Decades, pp. 512-516; W. A. Scott, The Repudiation of State Debts, pp. 54-63, 276.

the whites of Alabama were left to work out their own salvation.* This they did by repealing the laws passed by the carpet-baggers, reducing the number of offices and salaries, adjusting the public debt, and framing a new constitution.†

In Arkansas the same tactics were pursued. Bonds aggregating $10,000, 000 were issued for funding purposes, for alleged railroad and levee aid, etc. Bonds were issued on rails laid in one direction and a second series was issued on the same rails which had been taken up and laid in an opposite direction. Aid was given to the railroads for embankments near streams and "levee " aid was also given these same roads for the same purpose. Bonds were issued by the counties to build court houses and jails, but not one was ever erected. Most of the counties, after a severe struggle, finally paid off these bonds. "The schools are almost all closed because the school fund was stolen; and Little Rock is unpaved, though the conquerors of 1865 issued nearly shinplasters enough to pave all the streets handsomely with the paper itself and bonds enough besides to make dry crossings at the corners."

After the Republican governor had declared martial law in fourteen counties, and had gained undisputed sway in the State, the Republican party dis

*Nordhoff, The Cotton States, pp. 90-94.

Fleming, Reconstruction in Alabama; Rhodes. vol. vii., pp. 74-84.

Nordhoff, The Cotton States, p. 29 et seq. (D. Appleton & Co.)

[ocr errors]


integrated because of internal dissensions, as in Alabama, and a split occurred, the moderates, disagreeing with the leaders, forming into the Reform Republican party, with Joseph Brooks as their leader. At the following election Brooks was nominated by this party for the governorship and because of his reform platform drew many Democrats to his side. side. His opponent, nominated by the radical element, was Elisha Baxter, who also promised reforms.

When the ballots were counted Baxter was declared elected, but Brooks contested the election before the legislature, though unsuccessfully. Brooks then secured a decision from Judge Whytock of the Pulaski circuit court declaring Baxter's election illegal, and on April 15, 1874, ejected Baxter, and declared himself governor. Baxter, however, raised an armed force, called a session of the legislature, which recognized him as the lawful ernor, and then petitioned Grant to sustain him. Grant, therefore, on May 15, issued a proclamation* declaring Baxter to be the rightful occupant of the governor's chair.



Brooks forces were ordered to disperse, and Baxter's possession of the governorship was not thereafter disputed. In July, 1874, a new constitution was framed and in the following October was ratified by popular vote, and the State once more came into an era of peace. The Democrats

* Richardson, Messages and Papers, vol. vii., pp. 272-273; see also his annual message of December 7. 1874, p. 298.


elected A. H. Garland to the governorship and also captured the legislature.* Subsequently fraudulent bonds to the value of several millions were repudiated by the State.i

In Texas Governor Davis had been placed in power in 1870 by the votes of negroes and extreme radicals, and soon the legislature organized a state militia and a "state police" under the governor's orders. This police, composed chiefly of negroes, was used to control the elections by intimidating the whites, but by 1872 a strong reaction set in and a Democratic legislature was elected. The governor's headstrong course had alienated many of his erstwhile friends and at the election in 1873 he was defeated by Richard Coke, by 85,549 votes to 42,633. 42,633. Davis, however, in an endeavor to save himself, secured a decision from the supreme court, under his domination, declaring the election null and void. As this decision was not respected he tried to enlist the aid of the Federal government; but on January 17, 1874, he was forced to abandon his attempt to seize the government and it once more came into the hands of the people of Texas.‡

* J. M. Harrell, The Brooks and Baxter War: A History of the Reconstruction in Arkansas, p. 163 et seq.; Cox, Three Decades, pp. 534-542; McPherson, Handbook of Politics, 1874, pp. 87-100; Rhodes, vol. vii., pp. 86-91; Andrews, Last Quar ter-Century, vol. i., pp. 136-142; House Report No. 2, 43d Congress, 2d session.


Scott, Repudiation of State Debts, pp. 121

Garrison's Texas. pp. 296-297; McPherson, Handbook of Politics, 1874, pp. 108-112; Apple. ton's Annual Cyclopædia, 1873, pp. 737-741.

« PreviousContinue »