South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER LIV
EARLY YEARS OF CONGRESSIONAL RECONSTRUCTION, 1867-1870

THAT THE Negro needed Federal protection is amply proved by instances of peonage until recent years; but the fact that peonage was destroyed by the courts under the authority of the Thirteenth Amendment proved that enactment ample without the later measure granting Negro suffrage. Many sincere Northerners without animosity toward the South were convinced, by the rejection of the Fourteenth Amendment and by passionate misrepresentations, that unqualified Negro suffrage was a necessity. To this body of well-intentioned opinion there was added the force of the small group of fanatics who, as Professor Dunning remarks, are accepted as leaders only in times of abnormal excitement. Of these Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts was the most typical and one of the two most influential. Of a powerful mind and of an intolerance that dismissed as wicked or perverse difference with his fixed ideas, and of an unhappy personal experience with Brooks which could not incline him favorably toward anything Southern, Sumner passionately, eloquently, unceasingly overwhelmed the Senate with demands for the removal of every State law opposed to complete political and social equality. One of the most ignorant and undeveloped of races was to be placed by mere legislative fiat in absolute power over a large portion of a race notable for centuries for the highest success in self-government, to whom the independence and self-direction now to be destroyed were almost as dear as life.

A Vindictive North: A Resentful South.-- Equally as influential as Sumner was Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania. Stevens represented both the philanthropic and the partisan element in Congress. Of strong mind and a dominating personal force that crushed weaker men by a sneer and ruled the House of Representatives as it had never before submitted to be ruled, Stevens defied social and political conventions. Having risen by bitter struggle from harsh conditions, he was such a sincere devotee of the equality of all men that he lived' with a mulatto mistress and was buried in a cemetery which admitted Negroes. His feelings toward the South were not helped when the Confederate Army burned his ironworks. With an enormous capacity for hate, Stevens was the frankest of the enemies of the South, in his determination to have

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