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Facts of Reconstruction, The

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<SPAN name="CHAPTER_II" id="CHAPTER_II"></SPAN>CHAPTER II</h2> <h3>REORGANIZATION OF THE STATE DEPARTMENTS DURING GOVERNOR ALCORN'S ADMINISTRATION</h3> <p>The new Constitution of Mississippi, which had been rejected in 1868, was to be submitted to a popular vote once more in November, 1869. At the same time State officers, members of the Legislature, Congressmen, and district and county officers were to be elected. Since the objectionable clauses in the Constitution were to be put to a separate vote, and since it was understood that both parties would favor the rejection of these clauses, there was no serious opposition to the ratification of the Constitution thus amended. A hard and stubborn fight was, however, to be made for control of the State Government.</p> <p>General James L. Alcorn, who had been a general in the Confederate Army and who had recently openly identified himself with the Republican party, was nominated by the Republicans for the office of Governor of the State. Of the other six men who were associated with him on the state ticket, only the candidate for Secretary of the State, the Reverend James Lynch,&mdash;an able and eloquent minister of the Methodist Church,&mdash;was a colored man. Lynch was a man of fine ability, of splendid education, and one of the most powerful and convincing orators that the Republicans had upon the stump in that campaign. He was known and recognized as such an able and brilliant speaker that his services were in great demand from the beginning to the end of the campaign. No Democratic orator, however able, was anxious to meet him in joint debate. He died suddenly the latter part of 1872. His death was a great loss to the State and to the Republican party and especially to the colored race.</p> <p>Of the other five candidates on the ticket two,&mdash;the candidates for State Treasurer and Attorney General,&mdash;were, like General Alcorn, Southern white men. The candidate for State Treasurer, Hon. W.H. Vasser, was a successful business man who lived in the northern part of the State, while the candidate for Attorney General, Hon. Joshua S. Morris, was a brilliant member of the bar who lived in the southern part of the State. The other three, the candidates for Lieutenant-Governor, State Auditor and Superintendent of Education, were Northern men who had settled in the State after the War, called by the Democrats, "Carpet Baggers," but they were admitted to be clean and good men who had lived in the State long enough to become fully identified with its industrial and business interests. H.C. Powers, the candidate for Lieutenant-Governor, and H. Musgrove, the candidate for Auditor of Public Accounts, were successful cotton planters from Noxubee and Clarke counties respectively; while H.R. Pease, the candidate for State Superintendent of Education, had been identified with educational work ever since he came to the State. It could not be denied that it was a strong and able ticket,&mdash;one that the Democrats would find it very difficult to defeat. In desperation the Democratic party had nominated as their candidate for Governor a brother-in-law of President Grant's, Judge Lewis Dent, in the hope that the President would throw the weight of his influence and the active support of his administration on the side of his relative, as against the candidate of his own party, especially in view of the fact that Dent had been nominated not as a Democrat but as an Independent Republican,&mdash;his candidacy simply having been indorsed by the Democratic organization. But in this they were disappointed, for if the President gave any indication of preference it was in favor of the Republican ticket. General Ames, for instance, was the Military Governor of the State, holding that position at the pleasure of the President; and Ames was so outspoken in his support of the Republican ticket, that in an address before the State Republican Convention that nominated General Alcorn for the Governorship he announced, "You have my sympathy and shall have my support." This declaration was received by the convention with great applause, for it was known that those words from that source carried great weight. They meant not only that the Republican party would have the active and aggressive support of the Military Governor,&mdash;which was very important and would be worth thousands of votes to the party,&mdash;but they also indicated the attitude of the National Administration. The campaign was aggressive from beginning to end. Judge Dent was at a disadvantage, since his candidacy had failed to bring to his support the influence of the National Administration, which had been the sole purpose of his nomination. In spite of that fact Dent made a game and gallant fight; but the election resulted in an overwhelming Republican victory. That party not only elected the State ticket by a majority of about 30,000 but it also had a large majority in both branches of the State Legislature.</p> <p>The new administration had an important and difficult task before it. A State Government had to be organized from top to bottom; a new judiciary had to be inaugurated,&mdash;consisting of three Justices of the State Supreme Court, fifteen Judges of the Circuit Court and twenty Chancery Court Judges,&mdash;who had all to be appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Senate, and, in addition, a new public school system had to be established. There was not a public school building anywhere in the State except in a few of the larger towns, and they, with possibly a few exceptions, were greatly in need of repairs. To erect the necessary school houses and to reconstruct and repair those already in existence so as to afford educational facilities for both races was by no means an easy task. It necessitated a very large outlay of cash in the beginning, which resulted in a material increase in the rate of taxation for the time being, but the Constitution called for the establishment of the system, and of course the work had to be done. It was not only done, but it was done creditably and as economically as possible, considering the conditions at that time.</p> <p>That system, though slightly changed, still stands,&mdash;a creditable monument to the first Republican State administration that was organized in the State of Mississippi under the Reconstruction Acts of Congress.</p> <p>It was also necessary to reorganize, reconstruct and, in many instances, rebuild some of the penal and charitable institutions of the State. A new code of laws also had to be adopted to take the place of the old code and thus wipe out the black laws that had been passed by what was known as the Johnson Legislature and in addition bring about other changes so as to make the laws and statutes of the State conform with the new order of things. This was no easy task, in view of the fact that a heavy increase in the rate of taxation was thus made necessary, for the time being at least. That this important work was splendidly, creditably, and economically done no fair-minded person who is familiar with the facts will question or dispute.</p> <p>That the State never had before, and has never had since, a finer Judiciary than that which was organized under the administration of Governor Alcorn and which continued under the administration of Governor Ames is an indisputable and incontrovertible fact. The Judges of the Supreme Court were E.G. Peyton, H.F. Simrall and J. Tarbell, who in Mississippi had no superiors in their profession, and who had the respect and confidence of the bar and of the people without regard to race or politics. Judge Peyton was the Chief Justice, Simrall and Tarbell being the Associate Justices. The first two were old residents of the State, while Mr. Justice Tarbell was what the Democrats would call a "Carpet Bagger." But that he was an able lawyer and a man of unimpeachable integrity no one doubted or questioned. During the second administration of President Grant he held the important position of Second Comptroller of the United States Treasury. The Circuit Court bench was graced with such able and brilliant lawyers as Jason Niles, G.C. Chandler, George F. Brown, J.A. Orr, John W. Vance, Robert Leachman, B.B. Boone, Orlando Davis, James M. Smiley, Uriah Millsaps, William M. Hancock, E.S. Fisher, C.C. Shackleford, W.B. Cunningham, W.D. Bradford and A. Alderson. Judges Brown and Cunningham were the only ones in the above list who were not old residents of the State. After leaving the bench, Judge Chandler served for several years as United States Attorney. Judge Niles served one term as a member of Congress, having been elected as a Republican in 1875. His son Henry Clay Niles is now United States District Judge for the State, having been appointed to that important position by President Harrison. He was strongly recommended by many members of the bench and bar of the State; and the very able and creditable way in which he has discharged the duties of the position has more than demonstrated the wisdom of the selection.</p> <p>The Chancery Courts as organized by Governor Alcorn and continued by Governor Ames were composed of men no less able and brilliant than those who composed the Bench of the Circuit Courts. They were: J.C. Lyon, E.P. Harmon, E.G. Peyton, Jr., J.M. Ellis, G.S. McMillan, Samuel Young, W.G. Henderson, Edwin Hill, T.R. Gowan, J.F. Simmons, Wesley Drane, D.W. Walker, DeWitte Stearns, D.P. Coffee, E.W. Cabiness, A.E. Reynolds, Thomas Christian, Austin Pollard, J.J. Hooker, O.H. Whitfield, E. Stafford, W.A. Drennan, Thomas Walton, E.H. Osgood, C.A. Sullivan, Hiram Cassedy, Jr., W.B. Peyton, J.D. Barton, J.J. Dennis, W.D. Frazee, P.P. Bailey, L.C. Abbott, H.W. Warren, R. Boyd, R.B. Stone, William Breck, J.N. Campbell, H.R. Ware and J.B. Deason. The above names composed those who were appointed both by Governors Alcorn and Ames. A majority of those originally appointed by Governor Alcorn were reappointed by Governor Ames. Of the forty appointments of Judges of the Chancery Courts made under the administrations of Alcorn and Ames, not more than about seven were not to the "manner born." The administration of James L. Alcorn as Governor of the State of Mississippi is one of the best with which that unfortunate State has been blessed. A more extended reference to the subsequent administration of Governor Ames will be made in a later chapter.</p> <hr /> <h2>
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