First among Them Is the Right of Suffrage
THE VOTE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
One of the most peculiar and important facets of the struggle over African American men’s right to vote was the insistence, by its opponents, that it would bring about “social equality.” During the debate about black men’s enfranchisement in the capital, Washington’s National Intelligencer, a pro-Johnson newspaper, made clear the cascading connections so many conservatives saw between racial equality in voting rights and myriad other arenas. First, black men would obtain the right to vote, the paper predicted, and then Washington’s white residents would “go to the polls with good conscience, with a crowd of ignorant and wretched blacks, who will throng here from Virginia and Maryland.” From there, they would
vote for negroes who might, by the hocus-pocus of caucus, out-wit and out-vote whites for a nomination; would distribute votes for them; rally their black friends to the polls; serenade them when successful; assist their ceremonious induction to office; recommend white men to hold offices under them; sit with them in grave councils; serve with them on juries; stand for long hours for audience for office-seeking purposes; mingle in the levees and in fashionable gatherings of “that set;” send their children to the same schools; and finally, not to particularize to the fatiguing point, have and hold all the relations in business or other associations as if they were of the same race, blood, stock, or lineage.1
Black men’s access to the vote, the editors believed, would lead inevitably down a slippery slope toward office holding, jury service, and ever-moreintimate spaces, to the point where African American men would “have and hold” whites in the most private of places.
Why would anyone have believed, or at least argued, that voting rights for