No Easy Walk to Freedom: Reconstruction and the Ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment

By James E. Bond | Go to book overview

received full support from white Republicans for legislation they deemed essential to their well-being. Indeed, civil rights bills repeatedly failed to pass because Republican votes were cast against them. 89

Within a few years blacks would also lose the protections of the legal and constitutional order ostensibly guaranteed by Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment and formally enshrined in Florida's Reconstruction constitution. They did not lose those protections because there was any misunderstanding about the meaning or intended scope of Section 1, however. They lost those protections for two reasons. First, the resurgent Democrats captured control of the state government in 1876 and thereafter systematically excluded blacks from the political process and successfully relegated them to economic dependency. Second, Congress failed to use its powers under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment (and Section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment) to preserve and enforce the civil and political rights of blacks.

In the century-long reign of white supremacy that followed, the more hopeful prospects that Colonel John T. Sprague, the assistant commissioner for the Florida Freedmen's Bureau, had predicted in the spring of 1867 were all but forgotten. After commenting on some injustices suffered by the freedmen, the colonel hastened to promise: "Time and prosperity will, however, regulate these evils, and as communities, families and individuals feel the necessity of the colored man, prejudices will subside, old associations will be renewed, kindly relations must prevail without the feeling of servitude, and mutual responsibilities will insure justice in the course of law, and legislatures will see the necessity of enacting judicious laws to insure the prosperity of the State." 90


NOTES
1.
Joe M. Richardson, The Negro in the Reconstruction of Florida, 1865-1877 ( Tallahassee: Florida State University, 1995), 1. The 1870 census counted 96,057 whites and 91,689 blacks.
2.
George Washington Smith, "Carpetbag Imperialism in Florida 1862-1868," Florida Historical Quarterly 27 ( July 1948): 99.
3.
Jerrell H. Shofner, "Political Reconstruction of Florida," Florida Historical Quarterly 45 ( October 1966): 145, 159 (all parties encouraged immigration from the North in order to facilitate economic development).
4.
In addition to the freedmen and the Northern entrepreneurs, there were the planter class, the former Whigs who had opposed secession, and the poor whites. A Union general divided Florida whites into the following three classes: (1) the wealthy and well educated; (2) the partially educated, who were "more numerous"; and (3) poor whites, whom he described as "idle and vicious" men who "hated the freedmen." Richardson, The Negro in the Reconstruction of Florida, 4.
5.
See generally Shofner, "Political Reconstruction of Florida."
6.
Tallahassee Sentinel, 9 September 1867.
7.
P. Klingman, "Josiah Walls: Florida's Black Congressman of Reconstruction" ( Ph.D. diss., University of Florida, 1972), 99. Cf. St. Augustine Examiner, 31 August 1867 (the remarks of a "colored candidate for Congress" in Georgia were cited as proof

-183-

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No Easy Walk to Freedom: Reconstruction and the Ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1 - The Remembered Past of the Fourteenth Amendment 1
  • Notes 10
  • 2 - Ratification in Tennessee 15
  • Notes 26
  • 3 - Ratification in Mississippi 33
  • Notes 47
  • 4 - Ratification in North Carolina 53
  • Notes 65
  • 5 - Ratification in Louisiana 75
  • Notes 95
  • 6 - Ratification in Alabama 101
  • Notes 114
  • 7 - Ratification in South Carolina 121
  • Notes 137
  • 8 - Ratification in Virginia 143
  • Notes 158
  • 9 - Ratification in Florida 169
  • Notes 183
  • 10 - Ratification in Arkansas 189
  • Notes 205
  • 11 - Ratification in Texas 211
  • Notes 225
  • 12 - Ratification in Georgia 231
  • Notes 245
  • 13 - The Imagined Future of the Fourteenth Amendment 251
  • Notes 272
  • Selected Bibliography 275
  • Index 289
  • About the Author 297
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