A Perfect Hell
The Southern Road to Pike's Pique
Even before his steamboat reached Little Rock, Horace V. Redfield of the Cincinnati Commercial sensed how badly Reconstruction was going there. "Well, sir," a white passenger told him, "we are in the d--dest worst fix you ever saw." Thieves ran the government. "They are stealing everything we've got, and the war didn't leave us much." Governor Powell Clayton himself had pocketed a million, possibly more. As for the legislators, they were "mostly a pack of d--d fools," sure to stay in session until the last nickel was gone from the Treasury. 1
The conversation certainly told something about the passenger's hostility toward Republican officeholders, but Redfield did not use it to assign his source a party label. He took it as proof of an experiment in biracial politics gone awry.
By 1871, indeed, something did seem seriously wrong with the new Republican regimes that the Reconstruction Acts had permitted white and black Southerners to install. For all the governments' reforms, they had brought neither peace, order, prosperity, nor honest administra-