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Facts of Reconstruction, The

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<SPAN name="CHAPTER_XV" id="CHAPTER_XV"></SPAN>CHAPTER XV</h2> <h3>THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF 1876 AND ITS RESULTS</h3> <p>The Presidential election was held in 1876. The Republicans had carried the country in 1872 by such a decisive majority that it indicated many years of continued Republican ascendency in the National Government. But the severe reverses sustained by that party at the polls two years later completely changed this situation and outlook. Democrats confidently expected and Republicans seriously apprehended that the Presidential election of 1876 would result in a substantial Democratic victory. Mr. Blaine was the leading candidate for the Republican nomination, but he had bitter opposition in the ranks of his own party. That opposition came chiefly from friends and supporters of Senator Conkling at the North and from Southern Republicans generally. The opposition of the Conkling men to Mr. Blaine was largely personal; while southern Republicans were opposed to him on account of his having caused the defeat of the Federal Elections Bill. The great majority of southern Republicans supported Senator Oliver P. Morton of Indiana.</p> <p>After the National Convention had been organized, it looked for a while as if Mr. Blaine's nomination was a foregone conclusion. Hon. Edward McPherson, of Pennsylvania,&mdash;a strong Blaine man,&mdash;had been made President of the Convention. In placing Mr. Blaine's name in nomination, Hon. Robert G. Ingersoll of Illinois made such an eloquent and effective speech that he came very near carrying the Convention by storm, and thus securing the nomination of the statesman from Maine. But the opposition to Mr. Blaine was too well organized to allow the Convention to be stampeded, even by the power and eloquence of an Ingersoll. It was this speech that gave Mr. Ingersoll his national fame and brought him to the front as a public speaker and lecturer. It was the most eloquent and impressive speech that was delivered during the sitting of the Convention. After a bitter struggle of many hours, and after a number of fruitless ballots, the Convention finally nominated Gov. R.B. Hayes, of Ohio, as a compromise candidate. This result was brought about through a union of the combined opposition to Mr. Blaine. Hon. Wm. A. Wheeler, of New York, was nominated for Vice-President and the work of the Convention was over.</p> <p>The Democrats nominated ex-Governor Samuel J. Tilden, of New York, for President, and Thomas A. Hendricks, of Indiana, for Vice-President. Their platform pledged many radical reforms in the administration of the government. This ticket was made with the hope that it would be successful in the doubtful and debatable States of New York, New Jersey, Indiana, and Connecticut, which, with the Solid South, would constitute a majority of the electoral college, even if all the other States should go Republican, which was not anticipated.</p> <p>That the prospect of Democratic success was exceedingly bright and the probability of a Republican victory extremely dark, was generally conceded. The South was counted upon to be solid in its support of the Democratic ticket, for the methods that had been successfully inaugurated in Mississippi the year before, to overcome a Republican majority of more than twenty thousand, were to be introduced and adopted in all the other States of that section in which conditions were practically the same as in Mississippi.</p> <p>To insure success, therefore, it was only necessary for the Democrats to concentrate their efforts upon the four doubtful States outside of the Solid South. Up to a certain point the plan worked well. Every indication seemed to point to its successful consummation. As had been anticipated, the Democrats were successful in the four doubtful Northern States, and they also carried, on the face of the returns, every Southern State, just as had been planned; the Mississippi methods having been adopted in such of them as had Republican majorities to overcome. Since through those methods the Democrats had succeeded in overcoming a large Republican majority in Mississippi, there was no reason why the same methods should not produce like results in South Carolina, in Louisiana, and in Florida. In fact, it was looked upon as a reflection upon the bravery and party loyalty of the Democracy of those States if they could not do what had been done under like conditions in Mississippi. Hence those States <i>had</i> to be carried, "peaceably and fairly," of course, "but they must be carried just the same." Failure to carry them was out of the question, because too much was involved. According to the plans and calculations that had been carefully made, no Southern State could be lost. While it might be possible to win without all of them, still it was not believed to be safe to run any such risk, or take any such chance. If the Democrats should happen to carry a state that was not included in the combination, so much the better.</p> <p>Everything seemed to work admirably. That it was a plan by which elections could be easily carried, with or without votes, had been clearly demonstrated. On the face of the returns the majorities were brought forth just as had been ordered and directed. But it seems that such methods had been anticipated by the Republican governments in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida, and that suitable steps had been taken to prevent their successful consummation through the medium of State Returning Boards. When the Returning Boards had rejected and thrown out many of the majorities that had been returned from some of the counties and parishes, the result was changed, and the Republican candidates for Presidential electors were officially declared elected. This gave the Republican candidates for President and Vice-President a majority of one vote in the Electoral College. It has, of course, been alleged by many,&mdash;and it is believed by some,&mdash;that the actions of those Returning Boards defeated the will of the people as expressed at the polls, thus bringing about the seating in the Presidential chair of the man that had been fairly and honestly defeated. Yet, no one who is familiar with the facts, and who is honest enough to admit them, will deny that but for the inauguration in South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana, of the Mississippi methods, those three States would have been as safely Republican at that time and in that election as were the States of Pennsylvania and Vermont. But the plans of the Democratic managers had been defeated. It was hard for them to lose a victory they felt and believed to have been won by them, notwithstanding the extraneous methods that had been employed to bring about such results.</p> <hr /> <h2><SPAN name="CHAPTER_XVI" id="CHAPTER_XVI"></SPAN>CHAPTER XVI</h2> <h3>EFFECTS OF THE REFORM ADMINISTRATION IN MISSISSIPPI</h3> <p>Because the Democrats carried the election in Mississippi in 1875, they did not thereby secure control of the State Government. That election was for members of the Legislature, members of Congress and county officers. Only one State officer was elected,&mdash;a State Treasurer,&mdash;to fill the vacancy created by the death of Treasurer Holland. All the other State officers were Republicans. But the Democrats could not afford to wait until Governor Ames' term expired. They were determined to get immediate control of the State Government. There was only one way in which this could be done, and that was by impeachment.</p> <p>This course they decided to take. It could not be truthfully denied that Governor Ames was a clean, pure, and honest man. He had given the State an excellent administration. The State judiciary had been kept up to the high standard established by Governor Alcorn. Every dollar of the public money had been collected, and honestly accounted for. The State was in a prosperous condition. The rate of taxation had been greatly reduced, and there was every prospect of a still further reduction before the end of his administration. But these facts made no difference to those who were flushed with the victory they had so easily won. They wanted the offices, and were determined to have them, and that, too, without very much delay. Hence, impeachment proceedings were immediately instituted against the Governor and Lieutenant-Governor,&mdash;not in the interest of reform, of good government or of low taxes, but simply in order to get possession of the State Government.</p> <p>The weakness of the case against the Governor was shown when it developed that the strongest charge against him was that he had entered into an alleged corrupt bargain with State Senator Cassidy, resulting in Cassidy's appointment as one of the Judges of the Chancery Court. Cassidy had been elected a member of the State Senate as a Democrat. Notwithstanding that fact he voted for Mr. Bruce, the Republican caucus nominee for United States Senator, and subsequently publicly identified himself with the Republican party. Later his brother, William P. Cassidy, and his law partner, Hon. J.F. Sessions, did likewise. In 1874 Sessions was elected to the State Senate as a Republican to serve out the unexpired term of his law partner, Cassidy, who had resigned his seat in the Senate upon his appointment as a Judge of the Chancery Court.</p> <p>Cassidy was a brilliant young man, and an able lawyer. That the Governor should have selected him for an important judicial position was both wise and proper. It was one of his best and most creditable appointments and was generally commended as such when it was made. The fact that he had been elected to the State Senate as a Democrat, and shortly thereafter joined the Republican party was made the basis of the charge that his change of party affiliation was the result of a corrupt bargain between the Governor and himself, for which the Governor, but not the Judge, should be impeached and removed from office. There were a few other vague and unimportant charges, but this one, as weak as it was, was the strongest of the number.</p> <p>When the articles of impeachment were presented to the House, it was seen that they were so weak and so groundless that the Governor believed it would be an easy matter for him to discredit them even before an antagonistic legislature. With that end in view, he employed several of the ablest lawyers in the country to represent him. They came to Jackson and commenced the preparation of the case, but it did not take them long to find out that their case was a hopeless one. They soon found out to their entire satisfaction that it was not to be a judicial trial, but a political one and that the jury was already prepared for conviction without regard to the law, the Constitution, the evidence, or the facts. Governor Ames was to be convicted, not because he was guilty of any offense, but because he was in the way of complete Democratic control of the State Government.</p> <p>Personally they had nothing against Ames. It was not the man but the office they wanted, and that they were determined to have. They knew he had committed no offense, but, as matters then stood, being a Republican was an offense which justified removal from office. To punish him otherwise, for anything he had done or failed to do, did not at any time enter into their calculations. The Governorship was the prize at stake. In this matter there was no concealment of their purposes and intentions. As soon as the Governor's legal advisers found out what the actual situation was, they saw it was useless to continue the fight. Upon their advice, therefore, the Governor tendered his resignation, which was promptly accepted. He then left the State never to return again. If the impeachment proceedings had been instituted in good faith,&mdash;upon an honest belief that the chief executive had committed offenses which merited punishment,&mdash;the resignation would not have been accepted. The fact that it was accepted,&mdash;and that, too, without hesitation or question,&mdash;was equivalent to a confession that the purpose of the proceedings was to get possession of the office. Short work was made of the Lieutenant-Governor's case; and State Senator John M. Stone, the Democratic President pro tem. of the State Senate, was duly sworn in and installed as the acting Governor of the State. Thus terminated a long series of questionable acts, the inauguration of which had no other purpose than to secure the ascendency of one political party over another in the administration of the government of the State.</p> <p>The sanguinary revolution in the State of Mississippi in 1875 was claimed to be in the interest of good administration and honest government; it was an attempt to wrest the State from the control of dishonest men,&mdash;negroes, carpet baggers, and scalawags,&mdash;and place it in control of intelligent, pure, and honest white men. With that end in view, Geo. M. Buchanan, a brave and gallant ex-Confederate soldier, was, through questionable and indefensible methods, defeated for the office of State Treasurer, and Wm. L. Hemmingway was declared elected. Yet when the change took place it was found that every dollar of the public money was accounted for. During the whole period of Republican administration not a dollar had been misappropriated, nor had there been a single defalcation, although millions of dollars had passed through the hands of the fiscal agents of the State and of the different counties.</p> <p>How was it with the new reform administration? Treasurer Hemmingway had been in office only a comparatively short while when the startling information was given out that he was a defaulter to the amount of $315,612.19. William L. Hemmingway a defaulter! Could such a thing be possible? Yes, it was an admitted and undisputed fact.</p> <p>Mr. Hemmingway had been quite prominent in the politics of the State; but those who knew the man, and I was one of those, had every reason to believe that he was an honest man, and that he was the personification of integrity. He was neither a speculator nor a gambler. Even after the defalcation was made known there was nothing to indicate that any part of the money had been appropriated to his own use. Yet the money had mysteriously disappeared. Where was it? Who had it? These were questions the people of the State desired to have answered, but they have never yet been answered and, it is safe to say, they never will be. Hemmingway no doubt could and can answer those questions, but he has not done so and the probabilities are that he never will. He evidently believed that to turn State's evidence would render him more culpable than to be guilty of the act which he had allowed to be committed. He might have been forced to make a confession, or at least been compelled to give the prosecution a clue to the real criminal or criminals if the prosecution had been in charge of persons who could not be suspected of being the political beneficiaries of the methods by which it was possible for him to be placed in charge of the office. It was hardly reasonable to expect such men to make very much of an effort to secure a confession. In fact, it seems to have been a relief to them to have the accused take the position that he alone was the responsible party and that he was willing to bear all the blame and assume all the consequences that would result from the act. The names, therefore, of those who were the beneficiaries of this remarkable defalcation will, no doubt, remain a secret in the bosom of William L. Hemmingway, and will be buried with him in his grave.</p> <p>Hemmingway was tried, convicted, sentenced and served a term in the State Prison; all of which he calmly endured rather than give the name of any person having connection with that unfortunate affair. All the satisfaction that the public can get with reference to it,&mdash;other than the punishment to which Hemmingway was subjected,&mdash;is to indulge in conjectures about it. One conjecture, and the most reasonable and plausible one, is that if Hemmingway had made a full confession it might have involved not only some men who were prominent and influential, but perhaps the Democratic State organization as well. For it was a well-known fact that in 1875 nearly every Democratic club in the State was converted into an armed military company. To fully organize, equip, and arm such a large body of men required an outlay of a large sum of money. The money was evidently furnished by some persons or through some organization. Those who raised the money, or who caused it to be raised, no doubt had an eye to the main chance. A patriotic desire to have the State redeemed (?) was not with them the actuating motive. When the redemption (?) of the State was an accomplished fact they, no doubt, felt that they were entitled to share in the fruits of that redemption. Their idea evidently was that the State should be made to pay for its own salvation and redemption, but the only way in which this could be done was to have the people's money in the State treasury appropriated for that purpose otherwise than by legislative enactment. This, as I have already stated, is only a conjecture, but, under the circumstances, it is the most reasonable and plausible one that can be imagined.</p> <p>The case of Treasurer Hemmingway is conclusive evidence that in point of efficiency, honesty and official integrity the Democratic party had no advantage over the party that was placed in power chiefly through the votes of colored men. What was true of Mississippi in this respect was also true,&mdash;in a measure, at least,&mdash;of the other reconstructed States.</p> <hr /> <h2>
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