Beelingo.com

English Audio Books

Facts of Reconstruction, The

SPONSORED LINKS
<SPAN name="CHAPTER_IV" id="CHAPTER_IV"></SPAN>CHAPTER IV</h2> <h3>IMPORTANT EDUCATIONAL AND POLITICAL MEASURES OF THE NEW LEGISLATURE</h3> <p>In addition to the election of three United States Senators this Legislature had some very important work before it, as has already been stated in a previous chapter. A new public school system had to be inaugurated and put in operation, thus necessitating the construction of schoolhouses throughout the State, some of them, especially in the towns and villages, to be quite large and of course expensive. All of the other public buildings and institutions in the State had to be repaired, some of them rebuilt, all of them having been neglected and some of them destroyed during the progress of the late War. In addition to this the entire State Government in all of its branches had to be reconstructed and so organized as to place the same in perfect harmony with the new order of things.</p> <p>To accomplish these things money was required. There was none in the treasury. There was no cash available even to pay the ordinary expenses of the State government. Because of this lack of funds the government had to be carried on on a credit basis,&mdash;that is, by the issuing of notes or warrants based upon the credit of the State. These notes were issued at par to the creditors of the State in satisfaction of the obligations. In turn they were disposed of at a discount to bankers and brokers by whom they were held until there should be sufficient cash in the treasury to redeem them,&mdash;such redemption usually occurring in from three to six months, though sometimes the period was longer. To raise the necessary money to put the new machinery in successful operation one of two things had to be done: either the rate of taxation must be materially increased or interest bearing bonds must be issued and placed upon the market, thus increasing the bonded debt of the State. Although the fact was subsequently developed that a small increase in the bonded debt of the State could not very well be avoided, yet, after careful deliberation, the plan agreed upon was to materially increase the rate of taxation.</p> <p>This proved to be so unpopular that it came near losing the Legislature to the Republicans at the elections of 1871. Although it was explained to the people that this increase was only temporary and that the rate of taxation would be reduced as soon as some of the schoolhouses had been built, and some of the public institutions had been repaired, still this was not satisfactory to those by whom these taxes had to be paid. They insisted that some other plan ought to have been adopted, especially at that time. The War had just come to a close, leaving most of the people in an impoverished condition. What was true of the public institutions of the State was equally true of the private property of those who were property owners at that time. Their property during the War had been neglected, and what had not been destroyed was in a state of decay. This was especially true of those who had been the owners of large landed estates and of many slaves. Many of these people had been the acknowledged representatives of the wealth, the intelligence, the culture, the refinement and the aristocracy of the South,&mdash;the ruling class in the church, in society and in State affairs. These were the men who had made and molded public opinion, who had controlled the pulpit and the press, who had shaped the destiny of the State; who had made and enforced the laws,&mdash;or at least such laws as they desired to have enforced,&mdash;and who had represented the State not only in the State Legislature but in both branches of the National Legislature at Washington. Many of these proud sons, gallant fathers, cultured mothers and wives and refined and polished daughters found themselves in a situation and in a condition that was pitiable in the extreme. It was not only a difficult matter for them to adjust themselves to the new order of things and to the radically changed conditions, but no longer having slaves upon whom they could depend for everything, to raise the necessary money to prevent the decay, the dissipation and the ultimate loss or destruction of their large landed estates was the serious and difficult problem they had before them. To have the rate of taxation increased upon this property, especially at that particular time, was to them a very serious matter,&mdash;a matter which could not have any other effect than to intensify their bitterness and hostility towards the party in control of the State Government. But since Governor Alcorn, under whose administration, and in accordance with whose recommendation this increase had been made, was a typical representative of this particular class, it was believed and hoped that he would have sufficient influence with the people of his own class to stem the tide of resentment, and to calm their fears and apprehensions. That the Republicans retained control of the Legislature as a result of the elections of 1871,&mdash;though by only a small majority in the lower house,&mdash;is conclusive evidence that the Governor's efforts in that direction were not wholly in vain. The argument made by the taxpayers, however, was plausible and it may be conceded that, upon the whole, they were about right; for no doubt it would have been much easier upon the taxpayers to have increased at that time the interest-bearing debt of the State than to have increased the tax rate. The latter course, however, had been adopted and could not then be changed.</p> <p>Governor Alcorn also recommended,&mdash;a recommendation that was favorably considered by the Legislature,&mdash;that there be created and supported by the State a college for the higher education of the colored boys and young men of the State. This bill was promptly passed by the Legislature, and, in honor of the one by whom its creation was recommended the institution was named "Alcorn College." The presidency of this much-needed college was an honorable and dignified position to which a fair and reasonable salary was attached, so the Governor, who had the appointing power, decided to tender the office to Senator H.R. Revels upon the expiration of his term in the Senate. I had the honor of being named as one of the first trustees of this important institution. After the Governor, the trustees and Senator Revels had carefully inspected many different places that had been suggested for the location of the institution, Oakland College near the town of Rodney in Claiborne County, was finally purchased, and Alcorn College was established, with Senator Revels as its first president.</p> <p>As an evidence of the necessity for such an institution it will not be out of place to call attention to the fact that when the writer was first elected to Congress in 1872, there was not one young colored man in the State that could pass the necessary examination for a clerkship in any of the Departments at Washington. Four years later the supply was greater than the demand, nearly all of the applicants being graduates of Alcorn College. At this writing the institution is still being maintained by the State, although on a reduced appropriation and on a plan that is somewhat different from that which was inaugurated at its beginning and while the Republicans were in control of the State government. One of the reasons, no doubt, why it is supported by a Democratic administration, is that the State might otherwise forfeit and lose the aid it now receives from the National Government for the support of agricultural institutions. But, aside from this, there are very many liberal, fair-minded and influential Democrats in the State who are strongly in favor of having the State provide for the liberal education of both races.</p> <p>The knowledge I had acquired of parliamentary law not only enabled me to take a leading part in the deliberations of the Legislature, but it resulted in my being made Speaker of the House of Representatives that was elected in 1871. Shortly after the adjournment of the first session of the Legislature, the Speaker of the House, Hon. F.E. Franklin, of Yazoo County, died. When the Legislature reassembled the first Monday in January, 1871, Hon. H.W. Warren, of Leake County, was made Speaker of the House. In addition to the vacancy from Yazoo, created by the death of Speaker Franklin, one had also occurred from Lowndes County, which was one of the safe and sure Republican counties. Through apathy, indifference and overconfidence, the Democratic candidate, Dr. Landrum, was elected to fill this vacancy. It was a strange and novel sight to see a Democratic member of the Legislature from the rock-ribbed Republican county of Lowndes. It was no doubt a source of considerable embarrassment even to Dr. Landrum himself, for he was looked upon by all as a marvel and a curiosity. When he got up to deliver his maiden speech a few days after he was sworn in, he was visibly and perceptibly affected, for every eye was firmly and intently fixed upon him. Every one seemed to think that the man that could be elected to a seat in the Legislature from Lowndes County as a Democrat, must be endowed with some strange and hidden power through the exercise of which he could direct the movements and control the actions of those who might be brought in contact with him or subjected to his hypnotic influence; hence the anxiety and curiosity to hear the maiden speech of this strange and remarkable man. The voice in the House of a Democrat from the county of Lowndes was of so strange, so sudden, so unexpected and so remarkable that it was difficult for many to bring themselves to a realization of the fact that such a thing had actually happened and that it was a living reality. To the curious, the speech was a disappointment, although it was a plain, calm, conservative and convincing statement of the new member's position upon public questions. To the great amusement of those who heard him he related some of his experiences while he was engaged in canvassing the county. But the speech revealed the fact that, after all, he was nothing more than an ordinary man. No one was impressed by any word or sentence that had fallen from his lips that there was anything about him that was strange, impressive or unusual, and all decided that his election was purely accidental; for it was no more surprising than was the election of a colored Republican, Hon. J.M. Wilson, to the same Legislature the year before, from the reliable Democratic county of Marion.</p> <p>There was not much to be done at the second session of the Legislature outside of passing the annual appropriation bills; hence the session was a short one. Although Governor Alcorn's term as a United States Senator commenced March 4, 1871, he did not vacate the office of Governor until the meeting of Congress, the first Monday in the following December. A new Legislature and all county officers were to be elected in November of that year. It was to be the first important election since the inauguration of the Alcorn administration. The Governor decided to remain where he could assume entire responsibility for what had been done and where he could answer, officially and otherwise, all charges and accusations and criticisms that might be made against his administration and his official acts. The Republican majority in the State Senate was so large that the holdover Senators made it well nigh impossible for the Democrats to secure a majority of that body, but the principal fight was to be made for control of the House. As already stated the heavy increase in taxation proved to be very unpopular and this gave the Democrats a decided advantage. They made a strong and bitter fight to gain control of the House, and nearly succeeded.</p> <p>When every county had been heard from it was found that out of the one hundred fifteen members of which the House was composed, the Republicans had elected sixty-six members and the Democrats, forty-nine. Of the sixty-six that had been elected as Republicans, two,&mdash;Messrs. Armstead and Streeter,&mdash;had been elected from Carroll County on an independent ticket. They classed themselves politically as Independent or Alcorn Republicans. Carroll was the only doubtful county in the State that the Democrats failed to carry. The Independent ticket in that county, which was supported by an influential faction of Democrats, was brought out with the understanding and agreement that it would receive the support of the Republican organization. This support was given, but upon a pledge that the candidates for the Legislature, if elected, should not enter the Democratic caucus, nor vote for the candidates thereof in the organization of the House. These conditions were accepted, which resulted in the ticket being supported by the Republicans and, consequently elected. All the other doubtful and close counties went Democratic, which resulted in the defeat of some of the strongest and most influential men in the Republican party, including Speaker Warren of Leake County, Lucas and Boyd of Altala, Underwood of Chickasaw, Avery of Tallahatchie, and many others. Notwithstanding these reverses, the Republicans sent a number of able men to the House, among whom may be mentioned French of Adams, Howe and Pyles of Panola, Fisher of Hinds, Chandler and Davis of Noxubee, Huggins of Monroe, Stone and Spelman of Madison, Barrett of Amite, Sullivan and Gayles of Bolivar, Everett and Dixon of Yazoo, Griggs and Houston of Issaquina, and many others. In point of experience and ability this Legislature was the equal of its immediate predecessor.</p> <hr /> <h2>
SPONSORED LINKS