Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Brussels

New to-State Hours live importance

-

sented as having fitted up their private apartments with money voted to fit up committee rooms. Brussels carpets, sofas, mirrors, and seventy-five imported porcelain spittoons bought * for the State House' adorned their residences. But the • New York Nation,' in commenting on this fact, shrewdly says, • We suspect the truth to be that in the distribution of spoils “the poor African gets the gilt and plush-the porcelain spit

toons and the barbaric upholstery, while the astuter Caucasian “clings to the solider and more durable advantages.' There is only one cure for these evils, and there are indications that the North may adopt it. The main plank’in the platform of the Liberal Republican Convention, which met at Cincinnati on the first of May, and blundered into the adoption of Mr. Horace Greeley as its Presidential candidate, was the imme- diate and absolute removal of all disabilities imposed on 6 account of the rebellion. Mr. Greeley has always proclaimed as the motto of his Southern policy • Universal suffrage and “ universal amnesty. Congress has adopted universal suffrage, and universal amnesty will follow at no distant time. All the best minds in United States politics recognise it as the only possible means of restoring free and pure governments in the Southern States.

The exceptional legislation under which the South has so long suffered and still suffers, is unquestionably the fault of the Southern whites themselves. They never accepted their defeat, and they have constantly hindered reconstruction instead of helping it. Disfranchisement probably rendered them powerless to help, and drove them into violence. The chief organised form of protest against the new conditions of Southern society was in a conspiracy which will occupy a prominent place in American history. All the world has heard of the Ku-KluxKhlan and its doings. Mr. Somers gives the following admirable account of this secret society :

A secret organisation under this name spread with amazing rapidity over the South soon after the close of the war; and for a time, by moving in considerable bodies at night, in a peculiar costume, and executing a wild justice, spread alarm both among Federal soldiers and negroes. For a time the Ku-Klux enjoyed the respect if not the confidence of the conquered population ; but nearly all trace of this mysterious league has now disappeared from the country, or, where still extant in any form, its rôle has been taken up by mere marauders, betwixt whom and the white people there is no manner of sympathy. One day lately three rough men sat round the stove of a lager beer saloon in one of the towns of East Tennessee. By and by a man came in, dressed in fine broad cloth and with an air of briskness about him. He was a member of the legal profession, and his talk with the three

rough men, while most familiar and cordial, was all about the extent to which, in certain crises, he would serve a client. It appeared that the legal gentleman was prepared to be very loyal in getting off a thief, and his views of professional honour gave general satisfaction. “But bi what is the Ku-Klux-Khlan," asked one of the trio. "The Ku-Klux,” said the man of law, " are the three K's of Greece.” From which profound explanation the inquirer did not seem to derive much edification, and he asked again, “ What are they? Who are they?” The lawyer, dropping his voice into a whisper, replied, “ They are Confederate 4 soldiers killed in the war, who cannot rest in their graves." The secret society was, in point of fact, a kind of ghost of the Confederate armies. Its uniform, made of black calico, was called a “shroud." The stuff was sent round to private houses with a request that it should be made into a garment; and fair fingers sewed it up, and had it ready for the secret messenger when he returned and gave his tap at the door. The women and girls had faith in the honour of the " Khlan," and on its will and ability to protect them. The Ku-Klux, when out on their missions, also wore a long tapering hat, and a black veil over the face completed their disguise. The secret of the membership was kept with remarkable fidelity. In no instance, I believe, has a member of the KuKlux been successfully arraigned or punished, though their acts often flew in the face of the reconstructed authorities and were not in any sense legal. When they had a long ride at night they made requisitions for horses at the farmhouses, and the horses were often supplied under a prevailing feeling of assurance that they would be returned on the night following without injury. If a company of Federal soldiers stationed in a small town vapoured as to what they would do with the Ku-Klux, the men in shrouds paraded in the evening before the guardhouse in numbers so overwhelming as at once reduced the little garrison to silence. The overt acts of the Ku-Klux consisted for the most part of the disarming of dangerous negroes, the infliction of Lynch law on notorious offenders, and above all in the creation of one feeling of terror as a counterpoise to another. ... A real terror reigned for a time among the white people, and in this situation the Ku-Klux started into being. It was one of those secret organisations which spring up in disordered states of society, when the bonds of law and government are almost dissolved, and when no confidence is felt in the regular administration of justice. But the power with which the Ku-Klux moved in many parts of the South, the knowledge it displayed of all that was going on, the fidelity with which its secret was kept, and the complacency with which it was regarded by the general community, gave this mysterious body a prominence and an importance seldom attained by such illegal and deplorable associations.'

The Ku-Klux has unquestionably become in its latter days a mere engine of robbery and violence. The traces of it which still remain consist of bands of robbers, such as the · Lowery * gang,' who infest the swamps and forests of North Carolina, who are more like the bandits of Oropos than the secret society thus described. The violence and terrorism of which

inuccown Irish cts most obnoxntly of the

the Ku-Klux was the organised expression are, however, still. rampant in Southern society. The South has never returned to the full enjoyment of order and freedom. A Ku-Klux. Act has long been in force, and a Ku-Klux Committee has sat and reported to the present Congress. The object of the Ku-Klux Act is to enable the Federal Government to keep order in the South independently of the action of the State governments. Its most obnoxious feature was borrowed from our own Irish Coercion Acts, and gave the President power, in certain cases, to suspend the writ of Habeas Corpus. This part of the Act expires with the Session of Congress, which closed on the tenth of June, and the Senate passed a Bill continuing this power until the close of the next regular Session of Congress, or, in other words, till the fourth of March next. This Bill went down to the House of Representatives too late to be considered in its proper order; and a vote of two-thirds to suspend the rules was needful, in order that it should be considered and voted on. A large section of the Republican party were so anxious that this Bill, and another which was in the same position should be passed, that the Session was extended from the first to the tenth of June. But the House steadily refused to suspend its rules and the Bill dropped. The other measure was of a milder character, but it was mainly directed against the South. An Act was passed some time since to prevent election frauds in the great cities. It provides that any ten electors in any Congress district may, by addressing a letter to the district judge, causethe election to be held under the supervision of deputy marshals and supervisors of the United States instead of the local authorities. The Act is chiefly useful in New York, and is limited in its operation to cities of 20,000 inhabitants and upwards. The Senate passed and sent to the House a Bill making the Act apply universally; and the special defence of the Bill was that it was absolutely necessary if order was to be preserved in the South at the Presidential election. In this case, too, the House refused to suspend its rules, though the Bill had a clear majority in its favour. These closing manifestations of a more conciliatory spirit towards the South may be attributed to the desire of the Grant republicans to get the Southern vote. But taken in connexion with the declaration of the Convention at Cincinnati, they indicate a new tendency in the severed and still hostile sections of the country to draw nearer to each other.

The violence and disorder which have produced, and for some years have almost justified, this exceptional political

LEDEM

legislation, have had even more lasting social results. The effect of the Ku-Klux organisation has been to keep the tide of emigration from setting southwards. Northern men found themselves endangered, and went back home, taking their capital with them. They are still chary of returning, and the world is almost equally chary of sending its capital to a land where law is still so weak and violence so strong. But it is not the Ku-Klux only which has kept emigrants away from the South. There is no Ku-Klux in Virginia, there is almost everything that can attract emigrants, yet every effort to induce them to go and to stay has failed. The Virginia Legislature established a State Board of Immigration, but refused to supply it with State funds, and it broke down. General Richardson, the President of the Board, reported that just before its extinction seven hundred emigrants from Copenhagen were on their way to New York, and wished to settle in Virginia, if lands could be bought for them in farms of fifty or a hundred acres each. General Richardson says: 'A gentleman of high character came to Richmond, • and, after conference with the Board, endeavoured to pur* chase lands for settling these emigrants; but, owing to the * high price demanded, failed to make the purchase, and the opportunity was lost. I am credibly informed that this company brought more than two hundred and eighty thousand * dollars in gold. Virginia has committed the error which all the South has committed. It has not known what it wanted; and it has treated the very immigrants it needed with a scorn and avoidance which has driven them away. The South does not need labour, and it is useless to send thither any of the hordes which these great European countries are perpetually sending westward in search of work. What it needs is capital; and only the immigrant who has a few hundreds of dollars in his pocket has any chance of benefiting the country or establishing himself. A colony of Norwegian labourers was recently established in Amelia county. They probably went thither in response to the Virginian advertisement for white labourers to supplant the negro. After a few months their want of capital caused the experiment to fail; and the colony broke up, some going to the poor-house, others wandering off as beggars. The Southerners do not know how to treat white labourers. A Virginian gentleman lately imported some German labourers for his farm. When the first night came they asked where they were to sleep. The gentleman-kind and humane, as our informant testifies-had only provided for them the deserted huts and cabins, with mud floors, where the negroes had aforetime been content to live. He had no idea that what had done for the negro would not do for the European labourer. But the labourers were horrified. They had not crossed the ocean to sleep in log cabins and on mud floors. When morning came, not one of them was to be found. They had fled the district in dismay.

But there are worse difficulties in the way of a complete restoration of prosperity to these Southern States than even those which political passions and social ignorance inflict. The groundswell of the great tempest will gradually die away ; but the political power which the earthquake shook down in ruin will not be so quickly rebuilt. The Southerners were never really freetraders; but during the period of their predominance in the Union they kept the tariff comparatively low. From • 1837 to 1857 there was not a single fiscal year in which," says Mr. Wells,* •the unexpended balance in the National • Treasury--derived from various sources—at the end of the

year was not in excess of one half of the expenditure of the • preceding year; while in not a few years the unexpended s balance was absolutely greater than the sum of the entire

expenditure for the twelve months preceding In 1836 a surplus of 28 millions of dollars was actually divided among the States; and in 1854 the United States Treasury bought up its own six per cent. Mexican bonds, which had been issued in 1848, and paid a coin premium of 20 per cent. in excess of their value. There was a Protectionist tariff in 1842, but in 1846 the principle of taxation only for revenue was established, and a tariff was adopted which imposed an average of about 24 per cent. on imports. In 1858 this percentage was still further reduced, and for three years the taxation on importations averaged from 18 to 20 per cent. The war changed all this. The Northern victory has been made use of to establish a prohibitory tariff, which is the last bitter drop in the cup of Southern humiliation and defeat. Mr. Wells anticipates that ' with the settlement and passing away of the questions grow‘ing out of the war and the extinction of slavery, the atten• tion of the people of the United States will soon be given• as never before—to questions of economic interest and cha‘racter; ' and he predicts that'ten years will not elapse before

every vestige of restrictive and discriminating legislation will • be stricken from the national statute-book. Meanwhile, as he says, the United States are learning Free Trade in the hard and costly school of experience; and it is the South which

* Cobden Club Essays. Second Series. A Chapter in PoliticoEconomic History.

[graphic]
« ForrigeFortsett »