and the freedmen are ignorant?

The Georgetown elections - the Negro at the ballot-box / Th. Nast. (- Illus. in: Harper's weekly, v. 11, no. 533 (1867 March 16), p. 172; LOC:

“justice is the best policy”

In January 1867 the United States Congress passed a law over President Johnson’s veto that guaranteed the right to all men in the District of Columbia “without any distinction on account of color or race.” 150 years ago today black men voted for the first time in an election in Georgetown. According to one editorial, white men in Georgetown who boycotted the election because of the black voters sort of shot themselves in the foot. From The New-York Times February 27, 1867:

… Special Dispatches to the New-York Times.

WASHINGTON, Tuesday, Feb. 26. …


The Georgetown election, which took place yesterday, affords some curious and amusing instances of the extremes to which men, calling themselves white, and believing themselves possessed of sense, will be led by their passions and prejudices. The Republican candidate, Mr. CHARLES D. WELSH, who planted himself squarely on the platform of negro suffrage, was elected by ninety-six majority; and the same party elected seven out of eleven members of the Common Council. The entire vote was about 1,900, while the registry was over 2,300. It is an indisputable fact that the colored vote, only about 900 of the aggregate, was thoroughly polled, for they were at the polls early, and brought out every man in their eagerness to improve the first opportunity for the exercise of the long-sought boon of free suffrage. The presence of the colored men at the polls was so distasteful to the whites that many refused to vote while a black voter was near the ballot-box, and at least three hundred registered white men refused to go near the polls. The result was that they were beaten, as they deserved to be, when they really had it in their own power to beat their opponents. A few men have even gone so far as to threaten to discharge some of their colored employees because they dared to vote at all. One of this class was brought to his senses this morning by being informed by two of his best customers, that if he carried his politics into his business to that extent, they would also carry their politics into his business by withdrawing their patronage. …

The Georgetown elections - the Negro at the ballot-box / Th. Nast. ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, v. 11, no. 533 (1867 March 16), p. 172; LOC:

Andy-proof election

Thomas Nast’s cartoon was published in the March 16, 1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly. On page 162 in the same issue the magazine reported that the election showed “that the colored citizen is intelligent enough to know his interest, and independent enough to act accordingly. The horrible consequences of the vice and ignorance of colored voters are not yet apparent” – they didn’t seem beholden to “massa.” The freedman’s conduct was dignified, decorous, and restrained. Because some Baltimore and Washington roughs and bullies had threatened to show up, 150 policemen were on hand. There were sneers and insults, which the freedmen disregarded, and “the peace was not broken.” The election “was an ample vindication of the wisdom of Congress in passing the suffrage bill, and of those who insist that justice is the best policy.”

Slavery was abolished in the District of Columbia on April 16, 1862.

Johnson's Georgetown and the city of Washington : the capital of the United States of America. (New York : A.J. Johnson, [1867] ; LOC:

a land where all men can vote (1867 D.C.)

Check out the cartoon and map at the Library of Congress
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at the great white father’s

aj and dacotahs (LOC: )

peace and amity at White House

In February 1867 a delegation of about 100 Native Americans were in Washington, D.C. on treaty-making business with the Indian Bureau. 150 years ago today they visited President Johnson at the White House. According to the February 24, 1867 issue of The New-York Times. The natives, about half of whom were “in full Indian costume,” were accompanied by Secretary of the Interior Orville Hickman Browning and Commissioner of Indian Affairs Lewis Vital Bogy. Commissioner Bogy told the president that the Indians wanted to pay their respects to “their great father,” “the big chief of the nation.” Mr. Bogy said the Indians looked to the great father “for protection and care. Our government looks upon these people as dependents and wards of the nation, and since I have held the responsible under you as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, I have endeavored to give to them that to which they are justly entitled.”

The natives approved the commissioner’s words upon translation. President Johnson told the Indians that the government and the natives’ great father would “cultivate peace and amity between the races, although the United States has grown strong and powerful in its march onward, and your tribes have greatly diminished, there will be nothing left undone that a great and powerful nation can do, for the care and protection of its wards.”

Indian delegations at Washington--presentation to the president / From a photograph by A. Gardner, Washington, D.C. ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1867 March 16, p. 164. ; LOC:

first peoples, first wards of the nation?

The image of the reception was published in the March 16, 1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly. On page 173 the periodical noted that the Indians were Sioux and Yancton from Dacotah accompanied by the territorial governor. “The reply of the President, unlike most of his speeches, also met with approval.”

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used furniture

Declaration of Independence (John Binns, United States : s.n., c1818, published 1819; LOC:

Hancock and Washington (and Jefferson)

According to the February 23, 1867 issue of The New-York Times, even though Washington’s Birthday had been a legal holiday in the state for four years, New York City’s celebration was rather subdued. Customs were slow to change and the snow storm of the previous two days certainly put a damper on it. A lot of people were staying inside, probably reading President Washington’s “Farewell Address.” About two hundred disabled veterans attended a feast put on by the “Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Relief Agency.” In addition to a delicious menu the disabled veterans were provided a perennial stream of lager, and “one glass of whisky, two cigars and a paper of Cornish’s chewing tobacco.”

The same article included some snapshots from cities around the old United States. Three cities below Mason-Dixon observed the day. Charleston’s observance included “an oration before survivors of the Washington Light Infantry.

Here’s a paragraph in the same article from up North:

Observance of Washington’s Birthday.

PHILADELPHIA, Friday, Feb. 22.

To-day is observed as a holiday by the banks and Courts. The public and private buildings display flags. The formal presentation of HANCOCK’S chair, and the table on which the Declaration was signed, was made by LEWIS W. HALL, the Speaker of the State Senate, in Independence Hall. The response was made by Mayor MCMICHAEL.

You can glimpse these items at the University of South Florida and Temple University

Benjamin Franklin signing the Declaration of Independence (c1911.;LOC:

well-used furniture

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cotton-picking wages

Scenes on a cotton plantation / sketched by A.R. Waud. left ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1867 Feb. 2, pp. 72-73. ; LOC:

Harper’s Weekly, 1867 Feb. 2, p. 72

Scenes on a cotton plantation / sketched by A.R. Waud. left ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1867 Feb. 2, pp. 72-73. ; LOC:

Harper’s Weekly, 1867 Feb. 2, p. 73

Almost two years after the Civil War ended Alfred R. Waud was still providing illustrations from the front for Harper’s Weekly. Back in January his drawings of a rice plantation in Georgia were published. The February 2, 1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly (page 69) included Mr. Waud’s observations of southern cotton plantations. “These pictures were mainly taken upon the Buena Vista plantation, in Clarke County, Alabama.” The accompanying text went on to explain the process of growing cotton and processing it into bales for shipment and sale. The picture of the plantation graveyard for “defunct negroes” shows the rail fence above the graves to keep away marauding animals. The former slaves put a mattock and a spade on each new grave for fourteen days to prevent “premature resurrection of the corpse”. Cotton growing was still profitable in the South, even with free labor replacing slavery:

picking cotton (Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1867 Feb. 2, pp. 72-73. ; LOC:

wage earners

… One man to ten acres is considered sufficient – if they work. A good hand before the war was worth $1500 in gold, which, at the Alabama rate of interest – 8 per cent. – was $120 a year, besides the clothing, taxes, doctor’s bill, loss of time during sickness, insurance, etc. The same hand can now be hired for $10 a month in currency; pay’s his own doctor’s bill and taxes, clothes himself, deducts all time lost by sickness, and if he dies is his own loss – a consoling reflection to some planters.

Horses and mules can be purchased for less in currency than they could before the war, while provisions are about the same when reduced to a gold basis. The richest lands are for sale for prices one half to one third less than before the war. …

According to Walter L. Fleming in his 1905 Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama (pages 322-324) many Yankees took advantage of the cheap land:

Planter and overseer ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1867 Feb. 2, pp. 72-73. ; LOC:

immigrants from the North?

Immigration to Alabama

As soon as the war was ended, there was an influx of northern men and northern capital into Alabama. Cotton was selling at a fabulous price,—40 to 50 cents a pound, $200 to $250 a bale,—and the newcomers expected to make fortunes in a few years. They were welcomed by the planters who wanted to sell or to lease their plantations, which, for want of funds, they were unable to cultivate. General Swayne said that in 1866 there were 5000 northern men in Alabama engaged in trading and planting. They were sought for as partners or as overseers by those who hoped that northern men could control free negro labor. Lands were sold or leased at low prices, and many soldiers, especially officers, decided to buy land and raise cotton. Numbers of large plantations in the Black Belt were bought or leased by officers of the army, all of whom had lofty ideas as to what they were going to do. The soil was fertile, cotton was selling for high prices, and the free blacks, they were sure, would work for them out of gratitude and trust. They wanted to help reconstruct southern industry, and to show what could be done toward developing the great natural resources of the state. They embarked in large enterprises, and as long as their money lasted bought everything that was offered for sale. Their success or failure was dependent largely upon the negro laborer, who was to make the cotton, and the new planters made extraordinarily liberal terms with him. They dealt with the negro as if he were a New Englander with a black skin, and they purchased expensive machinery for him to use. They would not listen to southern advice, but went as far as possible to the opposite extreme from southern methods of farming. All suggestions were met with the assurance that the southern man was used only to slaves, and could not know how free men would work.

Reports, generally false and made mainly for political purposes, were continually published by the northern press in regard to the ill treatment of northern men who wished to make their homes in the South. But not a single authenticated case of violence to such persons can be found to have taken place in Alabama.

Cotton gin ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1867 Feb. 2, pp. 72-73. ; LOC:

rum gin?

In some localities, on account of bands of outlaws, for several months after the war it was not safe for any stranger to settle. The ignorant whites had no liking for the northern men (and may not have to this day). The better class of people was in favor of much immigration from the North, and Governor Parsons made a tour through the North to induce northern men and capital to come to Alabama. The people had no capital, and wanted to induce those who possessed it to come and live in the state. The testimony of travellers was that the accounts of cruelty and intolerance toward northerners were almost entirely false; that they were welcomed if they did not attempt to stir up trouble between the races. The refusal of Congress to recognize the state government and the rejection of the members elected to Congress caused a fresh outburst of bitter feeling against the North; but General Swayne, who had the best opportunities for observation, said that rudeness and insult and the occasional attentions of a horse-thief were the worst things that had happened to the northern settlers.

fleming (

southwesterly Clarke County

These northern men meant well but, as a rule, were incompetent as farmers and business men. Consequently they failed, and most of them never quite understood the reasons for their failure. They knew next to nothing of plantation economy, and the negroes were their only teachers. Most of them were from the West, and had never seen cotton growing before. It was almost pathetic to see these 5000 northerners risking all they possessed upon their faith in the negro, and losing. The northern merchant gave the negro unlimited credit and lost; the planter gave his tenant all he asked for, whenever it pleased him to ask. The farm stock was driven to camp-meetings and frolics while the grass was killing the cotton. Mills and factories were built and negro laborers employed, but the negroes, because of a lack of quickness and sensitiveness of touch, proved to be unfit for factory work. Besides, the noise of the machinery made them sleepy, and it was beyond their power to report for work at a regular hour each morning. At first, the negroes showed great confidence in the northern man and were glad to work for him, but too much was required of them, and after a year or two the disgust was mutual. The revulsion of feeling following failure and disappointment and ostracism injured the South by creating hostile opinion in the North. Nearly all the northern men went home, but the less desirable ones remained to assist in the political reconstruction of the state, when many of them became state officials.

work time (Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1867 Feb. 2, pp. 72-73. ; LOC:

a time to labor

The above stories are two tiny snapshots of the complex change in Southern society from slavery to free labor, and it would seem that people’s prejudices made the problem more complicated. In his book on Reconstruction Eric Foner details the complexity and some of the prejudices in a section entitled Masters Without Slaves[1] Mr. Foner writes about the Northerners who moved South and invested their money in cotton production. The Yankees were generally welcomed at first:

… most Southern planters recognized that Northern investment, ironically, was raising land prices and rescuing many former slaveholders from debt – in a word. stabilizing their class. What most annoyed Southern whites was the newcomers’ sublime confidence that they knew better than former slaveowners how to supervise free black labor. “They believed, in their supercilious folly,” one planter later wrote, “that they could get along with the free negroes as laborers, and teach the Southerners how to manage them.”

Southern planters predicted that the newcomers would soon complain about the character of black labor, and they were not far wrong. …

The blacks preferred a more irregular pace of work and wanted to “direct their own labor.”[2]

The February 2, 1867 Harper’s Weekly piece concluded that even with free labor cotton growing should be a profitable business, but the current growing season was the worse since 1846. Mr. Foner says that 1866 and 1867 were terrible years for cotton because of the weather and the army worm. “Many planters suffered devastation losses in these years.”[3]
A current study finds that blacks spend more time not working at work than whites (although they labor more than Hispanics). Daniel Hamermesh, one of the researchers, was quickly “labelled a racist in an online forum popular among economists.” That’s not fair because Mr. Hammeresh sort of puts blacks and Hispanics on a pedestal – he wants everyone to work less. [4] Are the critics racist in a way because they assume the white work ethic is superior?A?h6>

Also, I have learned that some people might consider my title racist
Thomas Nast, a cartoonist for Harper’s Weekly, highlighted southern white mistreatment of blacks. According to the Library of Congress Mr. Nast also produced a Grand Caricaturam, a series of paintings on American History. One of his paintings portrayed King Cotton as dependent on slavery.
King Cotton (by Thomas Nast; LOC:

a king without a country?


[Gettysburg, Pa. Alfred R. Waud, artist of Harper's Weekly, sketching on battlefield] (by Timothy H. O'Sullivan, 1863 July; LOC:

Waud I see

Rice culture on the Ogeechee, near Savannah, Georgia / Sketched by A.R. Waud. ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, v. XI, no. 523 (1867 January 5), p. 8. ; LOC:

growing rice in Georgia

Also from the Library of Congress: Timothy H. O’Sullivan’s photograph of Alfred R. Waud “taking pictures” at Gettysburg in 1863; rice cultivation in Georgia. The map can be found at Project Gutenberg
  1. [1] Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. New York: HarperPerennial, 2014. Updated Edition. Print. pages 128-142.
  2. [2] ibid pages 137-138.
  3. [3] ibid pages 140-141.
  4. [4] “United States: Working and race; Colouring in.” The Economist 4 February 2017: 26-27. Print.
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no, no

National map of the territory of the United States. (1867; LOC:

territorial ambitions

150 years ago this week President Andrew Johnson kept chalked up a couple more vetoes by opposing statehood bills for Colorado and Nebraska. You can read both veto messages at the Miller Center of the University of Virginia (Colorado andNebraska). The president didn’t think either state was populous enough to support a state government; In the Colorado message he included a protest from inhabitants who were concerned about the expenses of state government. Mr. Johnson was also concerned that the population of each territory was well below the number that would allow a state to gain another representative in the U.S. House (127,000 in 1867).

In both cases the United States Congress submitted bills to the president that would make Colorado and Nebraska states only if their respective legislatures enacted laws ensuring voting rights regardless of race or color. President Johnson objected to this because the U.S. Constitution gave individual states the right to determine voting qualifications. Since Congress was changing the state constitution which Nebraskans adopted, the president wondered whether the mandated change in the electoral law should be put before the voters in Nebraska as a referendum.

Here is President Johnson’s Nebraska message from Project Gutenberg:

WASHINGTON, January 29, 1867.

To the Senate of the United States:

I return for reconsideration a bill entitled “An act for the admission of the State of Nebraska into the Union,” which originated in the Senate and has received the assent of both Houses of Congress. A bill having in view the same object was presented for my approval a few hours prior to the adjournment of the last session, but, submitted at a time when there was no opportunity for a proper consideration of the subject, I withheld my signature and the measure failed to become a law.

It appears by the preamble of this bill that the people of Nebraska, availing themselves of the authority conferred upon them by the act passed on the 19th day of April, 1864, “have adopted a constitution which, upon due examination, is found to conform to the provisions and comply with the conditions of said act, and to be republican in its form of government, and that they now ask for admission into the Union.” This proposed law would therefore seem to be based upon the declaration contained in the enabling act that upon compliance with its terms the people of Nebraska should be admitted into the Union upon an equal footing with the original States. Reference to the bill, however, shows that while by the first section Congress distinctly accepts, ratifies, and confirms the Constitution and State government which the people of the Territory have formed for themselves, declares Nebraska to be one of the United States of America, and admits her into the Union upon an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatsoever, the third section provides that this measure “shall not take effect except upon the fundamental condition that within the State of Nebraska there shall be no denial of the elective franchise, or of any other right, to any person by reason of race or color, excepting Indians not taxed; and upon the further fundamental condition that the legislature of said State, by a solemn public act, shall declare the assent of said State to the said fundamental condition, and shall transmit to the President of the United States an authentic copy of said act, upon receipt whereof the President, by proclamation, shall forthwith announce the fact, whereupon said fundamental condition shall be held as a part of the organic law of the State; and thereupon, and without any further proceeding on the part of Congress, the admission of said State into the Union shall be considered as complete.” This condition is not mentioned in the original enabling act; was not contemplated at the time of its passage; was not sought by the people themselves; has not heretofore been applied to the inhabitants of any State asking admission, and is in direct conflict with the constitution adopted by the people and declared in the preamble “to be republican in its form of government,” for in that instrument the exercise of the elective franchise and the right to hold office are expressly limited to white citizens of the United States. Congress thus undertakes to authorize and compel the legislature to change a constitution which, it is declared in the preamble, has received the sanction of the people, and which by this bill is “accepted, ratified, and confirmed” by the Congress of the nation.

The first and third sections of the bill exhibit yet further incongruity. By the one Nebraska is “admitted into the Union upon an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatsoever,” while by the other Congress demands as a condition precedent to her admission requirements which in our history have never been asked of any people when presenting a constitution and State government for the acceptance of the lawmaking power. It is expressly declared by the third section that the bill “shall not take effect except upon the fundamental condition that within the State of Nebraska there shall be no denial of the elective franchise, or of any other right, to any person by reason of race or color, excepting Indians not taxed.” Neither more nor less than the assertion of the right of Congress to regulate the elective franchise of any State hereafter to be admitted, this condition is in clear violation of the Federal Constitution, under the provisions of which, from the very foundation of the Government, each State has been left free to determine for itself the qualifications necessary for the exercise of suffrage within its limits. Without precedent in our legislation, it is in marked contrast with those limitations which, imposed upon States that from time to time have become members of the Union, had for their object the single purpose of preventing any infringement of the Constitution of the country.

Union Pacific Rail Road, map of a portion of Nebraska Territory, showing surveys and location of lines by Peter A. Dey, C.E. (n.p., 1865?; LOC:

“a central position on the great highway that will soon connect the Atlantic and Pacific States”

If Congress is satisfied that Nebraska at the present time possesses sufficient population to entitle her to full representation in the councils of the nation, and that her people desire an exchange of a Territorial for a State government, good faith would seem to demand that she should be admitted without further requirements than those expressed in the enabling act, with all of which, it is asserted in the preamble, her inhabitants have complied. Congress may, under the Constitution, admit new States or reject them, but the people of a State can alone make or change their organic law and prescribe the qualifications requisite for electors. Congress, however, in passing the bill in the shape in which it has been submitted for my approval, does not merely reject the application of the people of Nebraska for present admission as a State into the Union, on the ground that the constitution which they have submitted restricts the exercise of the elective franchise to the white population, but imposes conditions which, if accepted by the legislature, may, without the consent of the people, so change the organic law as to make electors of all persons within the State without distinction of race or color. In view of this fact, I suggest for the consideration of Congress whether it would not be just, expedient, and in accordance with the principles of our Government to allow the people, by popular vote or through a convention chosen by themselves for that purpose, to declare whether or not they will accept the terms upon which it is now proposed to admit them into the Union. This course would not occasion much greater delay than that which the bill contemplates when it requires that the legislature shall be convened within thirty days after this measure shall have become a law for the purpose of considering and deciding the conditions which it imposes, and gains additional force when we consider that the proceedings attending the formation of the State constitution were not in conformity with the provisions of the enabling act; that in an aggregate vote of 7,776 the majority in favor of the constitution did not exceed 100; and that it is alleged that, in consequence of frauds, even this result can not be received as a fair expression of the wishes of the people. As upon them must fall the burdens of a State organization, it is but just that they should be permitted to determine for themselves a question which so materially affects their interests. Possessing a soil and a climate admirably adapted to those industrial pursuits which bring prosperity and greatness to a people, with the advantage of a central position on the great highway that will soon connect the Atlantic and Pacific States, Nebraska is rapidly gaining in numbers and wealth, and may within a very brief period claim admission on grounds which will challenge and secure universal assent. She can therefore wisely and patiently afford to wait. Her population is said to be steadily and even rapidly increasing, being now generally conceded as high as 40,000, and estimated by some whose judgment is entitled to respect at a still greater number. At her present rate of growth she will in a very short time have the requisite population for a Representative in Congress, and, what is far more important to her own citizens, will have realized such an advance in material wealth as will enable the expenses of a State government to be borne without oppression to the taxpayer. Of new communities it may be said with special force—and it is true of old ones—that the inducement to emigrants, other things being equal, is in almost the precise ratio of the rate of taxation. The great States of the Northwest owe their marvelous prosperity largely to the fact that they were continued as Territories until they had growth to be wealthy and populous communities.


On the other hand, President Johnson didn’t veto the Territorial Suffrage Act of January 10, 1867. The bill, which prohibited “denial of the elective franchise in any of the Territories of the United States, now or hereafter to be organized, to any citizen thereof on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” became law without the president’s signature.

Congress voted to override the Nebraska veto – the territory would soon become the 37th state. Congress did not override the Colorado veto.

Nebraska state seal (

lesson learned

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From The New-York Times January 24, 1867:

No More Negroes to be Sold in Maryland …

ANNAPOLIS, Wednesday, Jan. 23.

The Maryland Legislature have passed an act abolishing an article in the code permitting the sale of negroes into slavery as punishment for crime. There will hereafter be no distinction in the State in the mode of punishing white and black criminals.

The Senate adopted a report against suspending bounties to colored soldiers. …

According to a Thomas Nast cartoon in the January 12, 1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly the Maryland legislature’s action was not a mere formality:

<em>Harper's Weekly</em> January 12, 1867 (LOC:

Harper’s Weekly January 12, 1867

Maryland ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution on February 3, 1865. The Amendment abolished slavery, except as punishment for crime. According to William Starr Myers in his 1909 The Self-Reconstruction of Maryland
(Page 180), the Maryland legislature passed an act dealing with the status of the black population on March 24, 1865. Former slaves were to be treated just like white folks, except that they couldn’t testify at trials of white people and they could be “sold for crime for the same period that a white man might be confined in the penitentiary for the same offence.”

Slavery is dead(?) / Th Nast. ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1867 Jan. 12, p. 24. ; LOC:

Harper’s Weekly January 12, 1867

According to the same cartoon convicted freeman were being whipped as punishment:

whipping Slavery is dead(?) / Th Nast. ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1867 Jan. 12, p. 24. ; LOC:

Harper’s Weekly January 12, 1867


In his biography of Andrew Johnson, Hans L. Trefousse wrote that the relatively soft terms of presidential reconstruction made the South more resistant to change. An observer noted that

immediately after the war, the Southern leaders had been thoroughly subdued. Expecting no mercy from the government, they were prepared to submit to anything, even Negro suffrage, they thought would be required of them. “But the more lenient the government, the more arrogant they became.”

The president’s approach to reconstruction accorded with his beliefs about states’ rights, but this “reanimated Southern resistance and fatally undermined efforts to integrate freedmen into society.”[1] Once they were freed, President Johnson was never going to push for greater rights for the former slaves.

You can take out a much larger version of the Thomas Nast cartoon at the Library of Congress, which also provides the September 1940 photograph of “John Dyson, FSA (Farm Security Administration) borrower, playing the accordion. He was born into slavery over eighty years ago. Saint Mary’s County, Maryland”
John Dyson, FSA (Farm Security Administration) borrower, playing the accordion. He was born into slavery over eighty years ago. Saint Mary's County, Maryland (1940 Sept.; LOC:

free in Maryland

  1. [1] Trefousse, Hans L. Andrew Johnson: A Biography. New York: W.W. Norton & company, Inc., 1997. Print. pages 232 and 233.
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maintaining supremacy

Henry Blackwell (LOC:

white political supremacy in the counterbalance

150 years ago this week Henry Browne Blackwell wrote an open letter to Southern state legislatures in which he put forward “the only ground of settlement between North and South which in [his] judgment can be successfully adopted.” More and more Northerners were becoming committed to negro suffrage as a prerequisite for re-admittance into the Union. Most Southern whites were adamantly opposed to black suffrage and wanted an unconditional readmission. This stalemate would either produce another Civil War, which the North would easily win, or the South would be forced to concede that blacks had equal rights with whites.

But Mr. Blackwell suggested an alternative. The South should out-radical the Radicals by insisting on universal suffrage and telling the North: “Give suffrage to all men and women of mature age and sound mind, and we will accept it as the basis of State and national reconstruction.” Mr. Blackwell maintained that it was in the white South’s interest to demand universal suffrage because “Your four millions of Southern white women will counterbalance your four millions of negro men and women, and thus the political supremacy of your white race will remain unchanged.

He produced a chart showing how the numbers would work out:

HB Blackwell numbers (

numbers game

Mr. Blackwell also wrote that universal suffrage in New Jersey from 1776 until 1807 was not a disaster:

njexample (

no catastrophe in New Jersey

Henry B. Blackwell was married to Lucy Stone. According to Wikipedia: “In the winter of 1866-67, Blackwell and Stone lectured together on universal suffrage and formed local Equal Rights Leagues in New York and New Jersey. They also traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby Charles Sumner against inclusion of the word “male” in the proposed Fourteenth Amendment, which would penalize states for denying black suffrage but not woman suffrage.”


Thanks to the1a, I learned today about the Green Book, a guide for black travelers published from 1936 until sometime after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Its purpose was to list safe services and accommodations for blacks. As one of the book covers stated: “Carry your Green Book with you … you may need it!”

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, Washington, D.C. (by Carol M. Highsmith; LOC:

at The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, Washington, D.C.

From the Library of Congress: Henry B. Blackwell and his letter; King library
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murder of a Tennessee Unionist

150 years ago this week Dr. Almon Case, a Unionist State Senator in Tennessee, was shot dead by Frank Farris, a former Confederate guerrilla. From The New-York Times January 21, 1867:

Cold-Blooded Assassination of a Tennessee State Senator.

From the Nashville Press and Times, Jan. 17.

We were overwhelmed with grief last evening on hearing intelligence of the brutal assassination of Dr ALMON CASE, Union State Senator from Obiou [Obion] County, West Tennessee, who was shot dead at his residence, a few evenings since, by an assassin. Our present is as follows: Late in the evening a man rode up to his residence and called for him to come out. Mrs. CASE went to the door, and in answer to the man’s inquiry, replied that he had gone to town. The man rode off in the direction indicated, and met Senator CASE on his return, with whom he rode back. On approaching the house the assassin pretended to depart, but immediately afterward wheeled and shot his unsuspecting victim dead, and made his escape.

Senator CASE was a good, brave and faithful man, an advocate of progress and an enlightened public public officer. He was an early friend of colored enfranchisement, and it is worthy of particular note that he was in favor of universal amnesty, and allowing all citizens to vote, irrespective of their political antecedents or color. But his liberal views made him no less obnoxious to rebel malevolence. He has fallen by the hands of one of the very men whom he was ready to pardon and restore. Only a few days prior to the beginning of the present session his son, an excellent lad of sixteen, was shot dead while the family were returning from church, where the young man had just made a profession of religion. The father was wearing crape for his murdered son at the time of his own assassination.

A later article in the The New-York Times provided more information from the Nashville Press & Times. The murderer was identified as Frank Farris, who was a member of his brother Oliver’s guerrilla band during the war. It was said that Senator Case helped out Oliver Farris before the war and treated him like his son. Frank Farris mortally shot Moses Kinman in Troy, Tennessee on the morning of the day he killed Almon Case.

An article about Almon Case at Roots Web provides directions about how to view an interesting 1985 article about the murder of Senator Case. In his paper for the West Tennessee Historical Society Charles L. Lufkin pointed out that contemporary newspaper accounts distorted the motives of Frank Farris to fit their own biases. Unionist papers like the Press & Times conveyed the idea that Senator Case was shot for his Unionist, more liberal views. Conservative publications, such as the Memphis Daily Avalanche, argued that Frank Farris was justifiably retaliating for the killing of his brother John during the war.

Like the death of twenty-two blacks in the Kingstree jail fire, Thomas Nast saw the murder of Senator case as an example of Southern Justice:

<em>Harper’s Weekly</em>, March 23, 1867

Harper’s Weekly, March 23, 1867

Southern justice and the president's veto of the military government bill / Th. Nast. ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, v. 11, no. 534 (1867 Mar. 23), pp. 184-185. ; LOC:

murder – left side, upper left

According to the article by Mr. Lufkin, Almon Case migrated to Tennessee from Ohio in the late 1840’s. He was successful enough in his medical practice to buy 355 acres of land. Like Andrew Johnson, another Tennessee Unionist, Dr. Case bought some slaves – “a family unit of six, including four young children.”
Harper’s Weekly published an account of the case murder in its February 16, 1867 issue.
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Kingstree jail fire

On January 7, 1867 the jail in Kingstree, South Carolina caught on fire. Twenty-two black prisoners were burned or smothered to death.

From The New-York Times January 16, 1867:

The Burning of the Kingstree, S.C., Jail – Heartrending Scenes Attending the Death of the Inmates – Ineffectual Attempts to Save Them.

From the Charleston Courier, Jan. 11

We have deferred giving place in our columns to any of the numerous rumors which have reached the city in regard to the distressing calamity which occurred at Kingstree on Monday night, in the hope that the reports would prove exaggerated: … [but now there is an “authentic statement”] …

We learn that Gen. SCOTT has dispatched an officer of the Freedmen’s Bureau to the scene of the disaster to inquire into the circumstances under which it occurred.

We copy the following account of the fire from the Kingstree Star of Wednesday:

“We are called upon to record one of the most horrifying and melancholy accidents which has ever occurred within the limits of this State. Though an accident which no caution or foresght [sic] could avoid, it will send a thrill of horror throughout the whole country. On the evening of the 7th inst., between the hours of 8 and 9 P.M., the occupant of the jail heard very suddenly a rumbling noise
in the upper stories of the jail, as if the iron grates were being shaken, and immediately followed by the cry of fire. He rushed from his room to ascertain whether the jail was on fire or not, and after walking around the jail he observed a little smoke issuing from one of the windows on the third floor. … [The occupant sent for the jailor, who lived several hundred yards away and who had the keys to the jail. The jailor and sheriff soon arrived.]

The Sheriff, with the assistance of nearly all the citizens in the village and the garrison at this place, immediately took the most active measures to save, if possible, the unfortunate inmates. … [But there was too much smoke to use the stairs in the building, and the would be rescuers used ladders on the outside but couldn’t remove the grating from a window.]

At this time the cries and screams of the suffering inmates were heart-rending. The jail was in flames, and twenty-two human beings were being burnt to death, without any possible relief. Human agency could effect nothing; every effort was made to rescue them which could be suggested, but all to no purpose. … [only bones remained in the charred ruins only the bones remained]

[Twenty-two negroes, including three women, died on the third floor. Mr. MCBRIDE saved a white man who was confined on the second floor for bail process; Mr. MCBRIDE almost suffocated during the rescue.]

[Many people acted heroically, but especially] the superhuman efforts of Lieut. ROSS, private WM. GREEN, (who mounted a ladder at the most perilous crisis, and ascended to a window on the third story,) Sheriff MATTHEWS and Mr. BECK, JOE and WILLIAM BLABELY, (colored,) particularly excited our commendation.

As to the origin of this fire we can only conjecture. Whether it was accidental or designed by the prisoners for the purpose of making their escape is one of those mysteries that will remain unexplained. A jury of inquest is now sitting for the investigation of the whole matter, but up to the time of going to press they had not rendered their verdict.”

It’s all a mystery to me. The only other mention I found of Kingstree at The New-York Times archives for the rest of 1867 and 1868 was a paragraph in the February 5, 1867 issue that referenced the January 30th issue of the Kingstree Star: Two men “who were arrested by order of the military on account of the death of the negroes in the burning of the Kingstree jail, have been released from Castle Pinckney, where they were confined.” A District Judge requisitioned a transfer of the prisoners to civil authorities.

In the March 23, 1867 issue of Harper’s Weeekly Thomas Nast included the Kingstree jail fire in a cartoon lampooning “Southern Justice”. He drew the fire over a caption “TWENTYTWO NEGRO PRISONERS BURNED TO DEATH.” The text with the cartoon quotes General John C. Robinson saying the white prisoner “was permitted to escape.”

Southern justice and the president's veto of the military government bill / Th. Nast. ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, v. 11, no. 534 (1867 Mar. 23), pp. 184-185. ; LOC:

fire – left side, lower right

<em>Harper's Weekly</em> March 23, 1867

Harper’s Weekly March 23, 1867

<em>Harper's Weekly</em> March 23, 1867

Harper’s Weekly March 23, 1867

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NY Times January 8, 1867

NY Times January 8, 1867

As 1867 began, newspaper headlines indicated that the United States Congress was definitely planning on impeaching President Andrew Johnson. The president wasn’t cowed. On January 7th Congress received his veto of An act to regulate the elective franchise in the District of Columbia, which specifically mandated that the right to vote was guaranteed to every man in the District “without any distinction on account of color or race.”

You can read the veto message at The American Presidency Project. It was a long message. Two of President Johnson’s points: Congress was ignoring the will of existing D.C. voters; by prohibiting the Southern States representation in the national legislature Congress was ensuring it was veto-proof:

… Measures having been introduced at the commencement of the first session of the present Congress for the extension of the elective franchise to persons of color in the District of Columbia, steps were taken by the corporate authorities of Washington and Georgetown to ascertain and make known the opinion of the people of the two cities upon a subject so immediately affecting their welfare as a community. The question was submitted to the people at special elections held in the month of December, 1865, when the qualified voters of Washington and Georgetown, with great unanimity of sentiment, expressed themselves opposed to the contemplated legislation. In Washington, in a vote of 6,556–the largest, with but two exceptions, ever polled in that city–only thirty-five ballots were cast for Negro suffrage, while in Georgetown, in an aggregate of 813 votes–a number considerably in excess of the average vote at the four preceding annual elections–but one was given in favor of the proposed extension of the elective franchise. As these elections seem to have been conducted with entire fairness, the result must be accepted as a truthful expression of the opinion of the people of the District upon the question which evoked it. Possessing, as an organized community, the same popular right as the inhabitants of a State or Territory to make known their will upon matters which affect their social and political condition, they could have selected no more appropriate mode of memorializing Congress upon the subject of this bill than through the suffrages of their qualified voters.

Entirely disregarding the wishes of the people of the District of Columbia, Congress has deemed it right and expedient to pass the measure now submitted for my signature. It therefore becomes the duty of the Executive, standing between the legislation of the one and the will of the other, fairly expressed, to determine whether he should approve the bill, and thus aid in placing upon the statute books of the nation a law against which the people to whom it is to apply have solemnly and with such unanimity protested, or whether he should return it with his objections in the hope that upon reconsideration Congress, acting as the representatives of the inhabitants of the seat of Government, will permit them to regulate a purely local question as to them may seem best suited to their interests and condition. …

Congressional Library, (In U.S. Capitol) / photographed and published by Bell & Bro., 480 Penn, Avenue, Washington, D.C. ([Washington, D.C.] : [Bell & Bro.] [1867]; LOC:

Capitol full of Republicans … and librarians?

In addition to what has been said by these distinguished writers, it may also be urged that the dominant party in each House may, by the expulsion of a sufficient number of members or by the exclusion from representation of a requisite number of States, reduce the minority to less than one-third. Congress by these means might be enabled to pass a law, the objections of the President to the contrary notwithstanding, which would render impotent the other two departments of the Government and make inoperative the wholesome and restraining power which it was intended by the framers of the Constitution should be exerted by them. This would be a practical concentration of all power in the Congress of the United States; this, in the language of the author of the Declaration of Independence, would be “precisely the definition of despotic government.” …

As shown in charts at Wikipedia, the Republican majorities in both House and Senate in the 39th United States Congress were veto-proof, given the exclusion of southern states. As documented at The Daily Render, Congress did indeed override the veto by January 8th.

The Library of Congress provides the image of Congressional Library at the U.S Capitol. The Library of Congress didn’t move out until 1897. The image of exhibit cases at the Smithsonian Institution also comes from the Library. Andrew Johnson served as a representative from Tennessee in the U.S. House from 1843 until 1853. According to Hans L. Trefouse, he generally supported economy in government and consistently opposed the Smithsonian Institution. In the fall of 1847 Congressman Johnson exhibited an “ever more pronounced vendetta against the Smithsonian Institution, which he attacked at every opportunity. After advocating the establishment of a committee of supervision for the institution, he so severely criticized one of its regents, his fellow congressman Henry W. Hilliard of Alabama, that members of the House were appalled.” David Outlaw of North Carolina denounced the “real demagogical speech.” [1]
Interior of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., showing exhibit cases (1867; LOC:

at the Smithsonian about 1867

  1. [1] Trefousse, Hans L. Andrew Johnson: A Biography. New York: W.W. Norton & company, Inc., 1997. Print. page 69.
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