What Was Freedom's Price? Essays

By Willie Lee Rose; Joel Williamson et al. | Go to book overview

which brought sweeping changes to the southern economy and social structure.

This legislation was the culmination of what some southern leaders had feared most and had vainly attempted to forestall by warning President Johnson to proceed slowly and cautiously in assessing the signs of returning loyalty and acquiescence among the southern people. John F. H. Claiborne of Mississippi, for example, had written to the President as early as May, 1865, warning Johnson that southerners were not prepared for the pyschological consequences of military defeat or the social and economic consequences of emancipation. Claiborne recommended the continuation of military government for at least another year. It would take time, he argued, for southerners to realize what had happened to them and to recoup and to readjust.

"There is," according to Arnold J. Toynbee, "a thing called history, but history is something unpleasant that happens to other people . . . if I had been a small boy in . . . the southern part of the United States, I should not have felt the same; I should have known from my parents that history had happened to my people in my part of the world." History happened to southerners during the Civil War and they were dazzled by the dimensions and blinding speed of that cataclysm. Perhaps few documents reveal the repercussions of that cataclysm in such intimate, human terms as does the following letter.

House of Representatives Jackson, Mississippi March 26, 1870

To His Excellency Governor James L. Alcorn:

Governor, I was a slave of Col. W. G. Henderson. Boys together as we were, he is the center of the tenderest associations of my life. Arrived at manhood's estate, I was still intimately connected with him. . . . When he was wounded at Upperville, . . . he languished in the valley of Virginia . . . until it was my

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