Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

LVIII
A GLANCE BELOW THE MASON-DIXON LINE

WHILE the statesmen at Washington pushed on their glorious work, their military commanders in the South were attending to the execution of the Reconstruction acts. There was to be no doubt that the "conquered provinces" were conquered! The Northern generals by October 1st, 1867, had completed the registration. In five of the states the whites were outnumbered by the negroes.1

The old leaders of the South had been disfranchised. The new electorate consisted of poor white trash, negroes and carpet-baggers.2"No such mass of political inexperience, of childish ignorance," says Rhodes,--"'no such terrible, inert mass of domesticated barbarism' was ever before in our country called upon to exercise the suffrage. . . ."3

In the fall elections, by an overwhelming vote, Ohio refused to amend her Constitution so as to enfranchise her few negroes,4 yet conventions in what had been the Southern states were presently to be convened which were ordered to adopt negro suffrage in their fundamental laws as one of the conditions to regaining statehood.

In Virginia, on December 3rd, the first of these conventions met. Its chaplain came from Illinois, its 105 members from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Ireland, Scotland, Nova Scotia, Canada, and England. The old Dominion contributed but 35 whites and 24 negroes. The officers of the convention were foreigners and blacks.5

The negro delegates were fresh from the tobacco lots and cotton fields; they could neither read nor write, but they wore Prince Albert coats, tall silk hats and flourished their gold-headed canes.

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