GLEN COVE, NY — The 1874 election was like the
2010 election, only much bigger. It was a remarkable repudiation of
Reconstruction. The Democrats took 85 Congressional seats away from
the Republicans and won two vacant seats. Alabama and Arkansas voted
out their Republican governments. Florida voted in a Democratic majority
in the state legislature. Even states in such hardcore Radical Republican
areas as New England and the Great Lakes elected Democrats to previously
solid Republican seats.
On the other hand, Daniel Chamberlain, a Massachusetts colonel in
the Northern Army, was elected governor of South Carolina in an election
administered by the Northern Army. Another New England Northern war
veteran, Marcellu Stearns, was elected governor of Florida. They joined
Adelbert Ames, a Northern general from Maine, and William Kellog, a
Northern colonel from Vermont, as Southern governors. Ames was elected
in Mississippi in 1873, and Kellog was elected in Louisiana in 1872.
Ames had commanded the Northern troops in Mississippi and Arkansas
who supervised the election that indirectly resulted in his going to
the United States Senate in 1870. While commanding these troops, he
also served as an unelected military governor. During his term as an
elected governor, he spent most of his time in Massachusetts, Iowa,
and Minnesota. His wife made no secret of her belief in the superiority
of Northern women to Southern women. He himself made no secret of his
desire to return to the North permanently.
While Southern Democrats continued to build support in the North for
an end to Reconstruction, some Radical Republicans completely misread
the message of the 1874 election. The Army went into the Louisiana
legislature with bayonets and removed five legislators and replaced
them with their Radical Republican opponents. General Sheridan proposed
replacing jury trials in the South with military tribunals. These two
actions further diminished what little was left of popular support
Radical Reconstruction had begun in 1867, when 10 Southern states
were placed under governments in which the Northern Army supervised
the elections, corrupt Radical Republicans counted the votes, and the
governor was often a Northern military officer. Blacks often filled
offices like lieutenant governor without real power. Politics consisted
of the Army trying to minimize voting by former Confederate soldiers
and public officials and maximize voting by blacks, while the Democrats
tried to maximize voting by Confederate veterans and minimize voting
by rural ex-slaves, especially those who could not read the ballots.
By 1870, Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia voted out their Reconstruction
governments, but the Northern army again seized power in Alabama in
1872. North Carolina developed a form of two-party, two-race politics
that lasted until 1901, when the last Republican black congressman
from North Carolina retired. In 1873, Texas voted out its Reconstruction
and brought back the Texas Rangers. After Alabama and Arkansas voted
out their Reconstruction governments in 1874, the only ones remaining
were Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina — all headed
by New England Northern veterans, who clung tenaciously to power by
military might despite the clear message from the 1874 election.
1874 saw the rise of two men who would cooperate in ending Reconstruction.
In that year, Mississippi sent Blanche Kelso Bruce to the Senate. The
son of a plantation owner and one of his slaves, he was given the same
education as his legitimate half brother and given his freedom by his
father early in life. In the same year, Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus
Lamar went to Congress. He had served in Congress from Mississippi
before the War and had served as a Confederate general.
Shortly after Lamar arrived in Congress, Charles Sumner died. He was
probably the worst enemy the South had, and at the time of his death
he was working on more anti-Southern legislation. Lamar surprised everyone
by giving a truly generous eulogy of Sumner on the floor of the House.
This made a tremendous impression in the North and changed opinion
to wide opposition to Reconstruction.
Governor Ames told President Ulysses Grant that the Republicans would
lose Mississippi in 1875 if more troops were not sent there. Others
advised Grant that if he did send more troops to the South, Rutherford
B. Hayes would lose the governorship of Ohio in 1875. Grant did not
send troops, and the Democrats won control of the Mississippi legislature
in 1875, resulting in Ames’ resigning in exchange for the withdrawal
of impeachment charges against him.
In 1876, the Democrat Samuel J. Tilden easily won the popular vote
over Rutherford B. Hayes and appeared to win the electoral vote. If,
however, Hayes could carry Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina,
he would win by one vote. Radical Republican election officials in
these three states certified the election of Hayes, contrary to the
actual vote count. The result was the worst electoral crisis in our
history. Part of the deal that resolved it was an agreement that never
again would the Army interfere in elections.
Also in 1876, Chamberlain and Kellog claimed reelection in disputed
elections and were recognized by the Army. Within two months, Hayes
ordered the Army to stop interfering in local politics, and the Democratic
true winners of the 1876 elections replaced Chamberlain in South Carolina
and Kellog in Louisiana.
In Florida, the state Supreme Court awarded the disputed election
for governor to the Democrat. On the day of Hayes’ inauguration
in 1877, Lamar was seated as a Senator. Although he had been elected
in 1875, the Radical Republicans had barred him from his seat. On the
opening day of Congress, Senator Bruce surprised almost everyone by
yielding to the Senator who moved to seat Lamar and by voting for him.
Lamar and Bruce apparently truly liked each other and cooperated in
advancing the interests of Mississippi. They quickly agreed on the
replacement of white Republican appointees with white Democrats and
on the protection of Black Republican office holders. A period of peace
between North and South was created in 1877 that lasted until Eisenhower
used troops in Arkansas.
Ames returned North and became a businessman in Iowa and Minnesota.
Bruce served a full term in the Senate and stayed in Washington, where
he was a leader of the black community. Lamar continued to serve in
the Senate until he was appointed first to Cleveland’s cabinet
and then to the United State Supreme Court.
Lamar was one of the heroes of John F. Kennedy’s Profiles
in Courage. One of Ames’ daughters made a notorious pest of herself
in Washington during the Kennedy administration trying to get Kennedy
to change his book.
The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2010
by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com.
All rights reserved.
Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the
New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in
many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles
about the law.
See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.
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