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the Reconstruction experiment in racial democracy failed because it began at the wrong end, emphasizing political means and civil rights acts rather than economic means and self-determination… Booker T. Washington

It goes without saying that the greatest tragedy in the history of the American Republic was the War Between the States by which the industrialized north became the predominant force in the new American Nation while the remnants of true Republicanism were suppressed in the South through an often brutal military occupation called Reconstruction.

Robert Smalls, S.C. M.C. Born in Beaufort, SC, April 1839 - Library of Congress

Robert Smalls, S.C. M.C. Born in Beaufort, SC, April 1839 – Library of Congress a colleague of  Robert Brown Elliott (1842–1884) who also was a black member of the United States House serving during the union military occupation of the South from 1871 until 1874. Not even an American he claimed to have been born in Liverpool, England to West Indian immigrants although no one has ever been able to corroborate these claims. Elliott arrived in South Carolina in 1867 at the age of 25, after the civil war and having never experienced slavery and attempted to establish a law practice – although no records are found of him in the court records.
Elliott was a community organizer for the local Republican Party and served in the state constitutional convention for which he was rewarded by being put in the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1868. The next year, with no military experience, he was appointed assistant adjutant-general in the state militia charged with enforcing the reconstruction dictates. Elected as a Republican to the Forty-second and Forty-third United States Congress he resigned on November 1, 1874, to fight political corruption charges in South Carolina and in 1877, when the last of the federal troops were withdrawn, he was forced out of office.

You will not read a sentence like that in any text accepted by the current academic establishment. Indeed their leading light, Eric Foner, has argued for a second Reconstruction – probably complete with compulsory re-education camps. If you are looking to Philip Dray for anything to correct Foner you will not find it there by intention but – and here is the trap for all propagandists parading as historians – if you sort through his evidence with reason and discernment you can come to conclusions one hundred and eighty degrees apart from his.

Head-and-shoulders portraits of Frederick Douglass, Robert Brown Elliott, Blanche K. Bruce, William Wells Brown, Md., Prof. R.T. Greener, Rt. Rev. Richard Allen, J.H. Rainey, E.D. Bassett, John Mercer Langston, P.B.S. Pinchback, and Henry Highland Garnet. - Library of Congress

Head-and-shoulders portraits of Frederick Douglass, Robert Brown Elliott, Blanche K. Bruce, William Wells Brown, Md., Prof. R.T. Greener, Rt. Rev. Richard Allen, J.H. Rainey, E.D. Bassett, John Mercer Langston, P.B.S. Pinchback, and Henry Highland Garnet. – Library of Congress Of course the unstated irony is that there were NO black representatives from the “union” states nor were those elected ever placed in any positions of influence in the House or Senate.

While we as a nation attempt to move forward and restore some sense of the Constitution in order that we may preserve the rights of the many we are continuously dragged backward by those who wish to preserve the rights of only the few – chiefly themselves. We did not get here overnight and it is crucial to know exactly how we got here in order to find the way out.

A satire aimed at California Republican gubernatorial nominee George C. Gorham's espousal of voting rights for blacks and other minorities. Brother Jonathan (left) admonishes Gorham, "Young Man! read the history of your Country, and learn that this ballot box was dedicated to the white race alone. The load you are carrying will sink you in perdition, where you belong, or my name is not Jonathan." He holds his hand protectively over a glass ballot box, which sits on a pedestal before him. At center stands Gorham, whose shoulders support, one atop the other, a black man, a Chinese man, and an Indian warrior. The black man complains to Gorham, ". . . I spose we'se obliged to carry dese brudders, Kase des'se no stinkshun ob race or culler any more, for Kingdom cum." Gorham replies, "Shut your mouth Cuffy--you're as indiscreet as Bidwell [another gubernatorial nominee] and Dwinelle--here's the way I express it--T?he war of opinion is not yet fought through. It must go on until national citizenship shall no longer be controlled by local authority, and "Manhood alone" shall be the test of the right to a voice in the Government.'"Chinese man: "Boss Gollam belly good man. He say chinaman vo-tee all same me1ican man--Ketch--ee mine all same--no pay taxee--belly good." Indian: "Chemue Walla! Ingen vote! plenty whisky all time--Gorom big ingin." At right a man in a top hat, holding a monkey on a leash, calls out mockingly, "Say, Gorham! put this Brother up." - Library of Congress

A satire aimed at California Republican gubernatorial nominee George C. Gorham’s espousal of voting rights for blacks and other minorities. Brother Jonathan (left) admonishes Gorham, “Young Man! read the history of your Country, and learn that this ballot box was dedicated to the white race alone. The load you are carrying will sink you in perdition, where you belong, or my name is not Jonathan.” He holds his hand protectively over a glass ballot box, which sits on a pedestal before him. At center stands Gorham, whose shoulders support, one atop the other, a black man, a Chinese man, and an Indian warrior. The black man complains to Gorham, “. . . I spose we’se obliged to carry dese brudders, Kase des’se no stinkshun ob race or culler any more, for Kingdom cum.” Gorham replies, “Shut your mouth Cuffy–you’re as indiscreet as Bidwell [another gubernatorial nominee] and Dwinelle–here’s the way I express it–T?he war of opinion is not yet fought through. It must go on until national citizenship shall no longer be controlled by local authority, and “Manhood alone” shall be the test of the right to a voice in the Government.'”Chinese man: “Boss Gollam belly good man. He say chinaman vo-tee all same me1ican man–Ketch–ee mine all same–no pay taxee–belly good.” Indian: “Chemue Walla! Ingen vote! plenty whisky all time–Gorom big ingin.” At right a man in a top hat, holding a monkey on a leash, calls out mockingly, “Say, Gorham! put this Brother up.” – Library of Congress

Capitol men : the epic story of Reconstruction through the lives of the first Black congressmen Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., 2008 Philip Dray United States. Congress. House Biography Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xiii, 463 p.: ill.; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [421]-437) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

A puzzling caricature, probably dealing with Reconstruction under Andrew Johnson's administration. The work is quite crudely drawn. An acrobat, with mustache and sideburns and wearing a jester's cap, holds in each hand a mask, one grinning and one frowning. His legs stretch from the head of Pennsylvania congressman Thaddeus Stevens, who holds a paper labeled "Committee of 15" and is seated on a black man, who crawls on all fours, to the head of an unidentified man (probably Johnson) who holds the U.S. Constitution. The latter's back is turned to the viewer and several geese, some alive and some dead, appear at his feet. Stevens, an abolitionist, was one of the most prominent members of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, composed of fifteen members of Congress. The fool remarks, "As yet, I have found no difficulty in standing upon my own platform." - Library of Congress

A puzzling caricature, probably dealing with Reconstruction under Andrew Johnson’s administration. The work is quite crudely drawn. An acrobat, with mustache and sideburns and wearing a jester’s cap, holds in each hand a mask, one grinning and one frowning. His legs stretch from the head of Pennsylvania congressman Thaddeus Stevens, who holds a paper labeled “Committee of 15” and is seated on a black man, who crawls on all fours, to the head of an unidentified man (probably Johnson) who holds the U.S. Constitution. The latter’s back is turned to the viewer and several geese, some alive and some dead, appear at his feet. Stevens, an abolitionist, was one of the most prominent members of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, composed of fifteen members of Congress. The fool remarks, “As yet, I have found no difficulty in standing upon my own platform.” – Library of Congress

Reconstruction was a time of sweeping change, as the union fabricated never intended citizenship rights for the freed slaves and granted the vote to black men. Sixteen black Southerners, elected to the U.S. Congress, arrived in Washington to advocate reforms such as public education, equal rights – with some more equal than others, and – as their least publicized but most important business – land redistribution to both punish the South and especially to reward the northern opportunists who went from being war profiteers to peace profiteers.

President Ulysses S. Grant and Congress turned a blind eye to the disputed 1872 election of carpetbagger William P. Kellogg as governor of Louisiana. In this scene Kellogg holds up the heart which he has just extracted from the body of the female figure of Louisiana, who is held stretched across an altar by two freedmen. Enthroned behind the altar sits Grant, holding a sword. His attorney general, George H. Williams, the winged demon perched behind him, directs his hand. At left three other leering officials watch the operation, while at right women representing various states look on in obvious distress. South Carolina, kneeling closest to the altar, is in chains. - Library of Congress

President Ulysses S. Grant and Congress turned a blind eye to the disputed 1872 election of carpetbagger William P. Kellogg as governor of Louisiana. In this scene Kellogg holds up the heart which he has just extracted from the body of the female figure of Louisiana, who is held stretched across an altar by two freedmen. Enthroned behind the altar sits Grant, holding a sword. His attorney general, George H. Williams, the winged demon perched behind him, directs his hand. At left three other leering officials watch the operation, while at right women representing various states look on in obvious distress. South Carolina, kneeling closest to the altar, is in chains. – Library of Congress

But these men faced astounding odds. They were belittled as corrupt and inadequate by their political opponents, who used legislative trickery, libel, bribery, and the brutal intimidation of their constituents to rob them of their base of support. Despite their status as congressmen, they were made to endure the worst humiliations of racial prejudice. And they have been largely forgotten — often neglected or maligned by standard histories of the period. In this book, Dray rewrites their story  drawing on archival documents, contemporary news accounts, and congressional records, he shows how the efforts of the first black Congressmen revealed their political motives and how their readiness to serve was part of a larger effort.

Two part cartoon showing: woman, "the Solid South", carrying Ulysses S. Grant in a carpet bag marked "carpet bag and bayonet rule"; Rutherford B. Hayes plowing under the carpet bag & bayonets with a plow marked "Let'em alone policy". - Library of Congress

Two part cartoon showing: woman, “the Solid South”, carrying Ulysses S. Grant in a carpet bag marked “carpet bag and bayonet rule”; Rutherford B. Hayes plowing under the carpet bag & bayonets with a plow marked “Let’em alone policy”. – Library of Congress

Among the glaring omissions of the book are that only two of the thirteen States of the Confederacy had majority black populations, South Carolina and Mississippi, and that even with a 41% white population South Carolina would wind up with blacks for five out of six of its Congressmen and Mississippi with a 46% white population would wind up with two black Senators. This latter was a deliberate effort to punish the home state of Jefferson Davis but more importantly since senators were still elected by the legislatures it shows how far the north was willing to go to usurp the legitimate powers of representation of the people.

Andrew Johnson holds a leaking kettle, labeled "The Reconstructed South", towards a woman representing liberty and Columbia, carrying a baby representing the newly approved 14th Constitutional Amendment. [from 1866] - Library of Congress

Andrew Johnson holds a leaking kettle, labeled “The Reconstructed South”, towards a woman representing liberty and Columbia, carrying a baby representing the newly approved 14th Constitutional Amendment. [from 1866] – Library of Congress

We meet men like Robert Smalls of South Carolina (who had stolen a Confederate vessel), Robert Brown Elliott (who engaged the former vice president of the Confederacy in a bombastic debate on the House floor), and the former slave Blanche K. Bruce who was said to possess “the manners of a Chesterfield” [Yes the same Chesterfield that Dr. Johnson said demonstrated the manners of a dancing master and the morals of a whore.]

"Time works wonders." Iago. (Jeff Davis) "For that I do suspect the lusty moor hath leap'd into my seat : the thought whereof doth like a poisonous mineral gnaw my inwards." -- Othello [from 1870] - Library of Congress

“Time works wonders.” Iago. (Jeff Davis) “For that I do suspect the lusty moor hath leap’d into my seat : the thought whereof doth like a poisonous mineral gnaw my inwards.” — Othello [from 1870] – Library of Congress

Before Lincoln was assassinated he had signed the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill into law. Similar to a good deal of current regulation and legislation many of its provisos were directed at overseeing the relations between freed slaves and their former employers in a new labor market. It did not – as is so popularly misconstrued these days – promise every free slave 40 acres and a mule. It did authorized the new bureaucracy to lease confiscated land for a period of three years and to sell it in portions of up to 40 acres per buyer – supposedly irrespective of race no doubt with the intention of bringing poor white farmers into an alliance with poor blacks. This begs the question of where the confiscated land was coming from.

The man with the (carpet) bags [Caricature of Carl Schurz carrying bags labeled, "carpet bag" and "carpet bagger South" - Library of Congress

The man with the (carpet) bags [Caricature of Carl Schurz carrying bags labeled, “carpet bag” and “carpet bagger South” – Library of Congress

Lincoln may have suspended habeas corpus and the Radical Republicans may have perpetuated that suspension throughout Reconstruction however neither was able to suppress the Fifth Amendment rights whereby a citizen could not be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. So how was the north – through their local proxies – going to confiscate land? The oldest trick in the book to turn cupidity into policy – taxation. The property tax rates in South Carolina increase from 5 mills to 12 and in Mississippi from 1 mill to 14 during Reconstruction. Is it any wonder why, in States devastated by war, so many properties – especially the plantations – came under the foreclosure gavel? As John Marshall said, The power to tax is the power to destroy.

Caricature of Rev. Samms of the Meade Memorial Episcopal Church, of Manchester, Va., who, dressed as a shepherd, is dismissing his flock of white sheep from the church because of the black sheep (an African American woman) who is sitting in front pew. Based on actual incident which took place onthe Sunday following the passage of the Civil Rights bill. - Library of Congress

Caricature of Rev. Samms of the Meade Memorial Episcopal Church, of Manchester, Va., who, dressed as a shepherd, is dismissing his flock of white sheep from the church because of the black sheep (an African American woman) who is sitting in front pew. Based on actual incident which took place onthe Sunday following the passage of the Civil Rights bill. – Library of Congress

As Dray too amply demonstrates, these men were bombastic, original in the worst sense of the term, and ineffective representatives who, as support for Reconstruction faded, were undone by the forces of re-enfranchised Southerners reclaiming their rights at the polls and northern indifference to a burlesque that they had grown tired of.
In a narrative that traces the tragic arc of Reconstruction, Dray follows these black representatives’ struggles, from the end of the war to the end of reconstruction, as they sought opportunism at every turn and made a staple of grievance to cover failure that would foreshadow the modern black efforts in the Congress.

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