« ПретходнаНастави »
operating laterally at the same time, he gathers an amount of plunder which no country in the world would have yielded to the Goth or the Vandal.
While the carpet-baggers in the executive offices and the legislature, assisted by Federal agents, were making enormous “piles" and plotting for more, petty larceny reigned supreme in the rural parishes. The negroes knew nothing of the difference between meum and tuum, and the law which should have taught them was a dead letter; every portable thing which could not be kept under lock and key, - pigs, poultry, the fruits of the garden and orchard were stolen as fast as they became fit for use, insomuch that the production of them had to be given up, greatly to the distress of all industrious and honest persons. Even the heavier crops, such as cotton and corn, were carried away from the fields at night, and traded for liquor and groceries at “stores” which were established for that particular branch of internal commerce.
Security of life can never be counted on where property is not protected; when the public authorities wink upon theft the people are driven by stress of sheer necessity to defend themselves the best way they can, and that defence is apt to be aggressively violent. Justice, infuriated by popular passion, often comes to its victims in a fearful shape. Disorders, therefore, there must have been, and bloodshed and violence, and loss of life, though they are not enumerated or clearly described in the reports. It is known that bands of "regulators ” traversed many parts of the State, and the fact is established that seven of the storehouses used as places of receiving stolen goods were burnt to the ground in one night. The officers of the carpet-bag government “cared for none of these things.” They saw the struggle between larceny and Lynch-law with as much indifference as Gallio looked upon the controversy between the Jewish synagogue and the Christian church at Ephesus. This horrible condition of society was caused solely by the want of an honest government.
But this is not nearly the worst of it, if carpet-baggers themselves and their special friends are worthy of any credence at all. They testify to numerous other murders, wanton, unprovoked, and atrocious, committed with impunity under the very eyes of their government. General Sheridan says he collected a list of four thousand assassinations perpetrated within three years. Senator Sher
man and his associates of the visiting committee swell this number greatly, and add that “half the State was overrun with violence.” No effort was made to repress these disorders or punish the criminals. Nobody was hung, nobody tried, nobody arrested. The murderers ran at large; the victims fell at the awful average of about four every day, and the public officers quietly assented to let “the rifle, the knife, the pistol, and the rope do their horrid work” without interruption. Are such men fit to govern a free State? “Fit to govern! no, not to live."
If an officer, whose duty it is to bring a felon to justice, connives at his escape, or wilfully allows him to go free, he becomes an accessary after the fact, and by all civilized codes his offence is as great as that of the principal. Certainly such an officer is morally responsible to God and man for a murder which he, by the exercise of his proper functions, might have prevented, but did not. Apply this rule to the Louisiana carpet-baggers, and measure the depth of their iniquity.
There is an aggravation of it in the fact stated by Mr. Sherman, that most of these murders were done upon negroes, many of them females, and some of them mere children. The carpet-baggers professed to be the special friends and protectors of the African race; yet they permitted them to be slaughtered by thousands with quiet unconcern; not lifting a finger to stay the wholesale destruction of their lives.
Is there any mitigation of the terrible guilt thus imputed to them by their friends? Some of their advocates say they were too weak to maintain public order, and were afraid even to try. This will not do; for imbecility or cowardice in such circumstances is as bad as wilful default. A magistrate who says he cannot punish or prevent continued murder is himself a murderer unless he gives place to somebody else who can. But in truth the carpet-baggers did not lack strength; and no courage was required. Legal process was never opposed; the great body of the people were on the side of law and order; in every parish the sheriff could raise an irresistible posse ; the aid of the United States Marshal, with thousands of willing and well-paid deputies, could always be commanded; the State had the largest regular police force in America; and at the back of all, “leashed in like hounds," the solid battalions of the Federal army "crouched for employment."
But let us be just. Kellogg and his confederates do not deserve all this infamy. The story of four thousand murders is part of the Great Fraud, and was fabricated to serve as an excuse for the false count. The heads of the Administration at Washington may properly be called its creators, for they said, “Let it be made, and it was made.” The theory was, that murder and violence, which the carpet-bag officers were too weak or too wicked to stop, gave them a paramount claim to the perpetual continuance of their disorderly rule; and that therefore the votes of a popular majority against them or their candidates for Governor and President ought not to be counted. Acting upon this view, they made up for the then existing government of Louisiana the “ bloodiest record on the page of time," and used it on all occasions as a standing answer to every demand for an honest count of the votes legally polled. That this was the predetermined intent as well as the actual use of it is very apparent. General Sheridan accompanied his statement with a proposition, not only to disfranchise certain political organizations opposed to the carpet-baggers, but to outlaw them as banditti, and leave them to be shot and strangled by the soldiery under his orders; and the Secretary of War assured him that his course was highly approved by the President and all his Cabinet.* Senator Sherman and his visiting committee, after giving a most revolting account of the cruelty, bloodshed, and violence practised under the carpet-bag government, conclude, that, if the people, by their majority already recorded, shall prevail against it and its presidential candidate, “then shall the glories of the Republic have departed.” Senator Morton, speaking from the bench of the Electoral Commission, drew his strongest argument for a false count from the murders perpetrated under carpet-bag auspices. Senator Howe of Wisconsin, advocating the fraud, went minutely into the history of many unpunished homicides; he smeared and daubed the Kellogg government with innocent blood, and pronounced it eminently “respectable." Nearly all the lesser lights took the same line of argument. It was a grievous wrong against the carpet-baggers to weave this bloody stripe into the web
* This despatch was hastily written by the Secretary of War, who, without intending it, did great unjustice to a part of the Cabinet. We have the authority of Gen. eral Belknap himself for saying that Mr. Fish and Mr. Bristow indignantly protested against General Sheridan's atrocious proposition.
of their history, which was bad enough without that; but to set it up as a reason for disfranchising the people who vote against a government so stained seems like a new species of moral insanity.
To parade acts of violence and murder perpetrated within the jurisdiction of a carpet-bag government was called, in the flash language of the politicians, “waving the bloody shirt," and considered a most effective mode of electioneering. A bloody shirt of their own, always ready to be waved, was a great merit; and they “assumed the virtue, though they had it not." It was proved before Mr. Morrison's committee that a homicide story, which included the death of a black person, was thought, by some Republicans, to be as good for the party as fifty thousand dollars added to its campaign fund.* According to this valuation Sheridan's collection of four thousand was worth two hundred millions of dollars. The carpet-bag officers did not object to the fictitious account of their own bloody baseness ; for it was intended to keep them in their places; and if it had that effect they were content to be infamous. But how the great leading statesmen of the country ever came to adopt the idea that the wickedness they charged upon the carpet-baggers would, if true, be a just ground for depriving the people of the right to vote them out, is one of the mysteries which may possibly be solved hereafter ; but with the lights we have now it is wholly incomprehensible.
The wretched system of carpet-bag government could not possibly last. From the first it had no real support. The native people and the honest immigrants, who went there for purposes of legitimate business, held it in abhorrence, and the negroes were not long in finding out that it was a sham and a snare. As early as 1870, and before that, the handwriting was seen on the wall which announced that a large and decisive majority of all the votes, black and white, had determined to break up this den of thieves. They must therefore prepare for flight or punishment, unless they could contrive a way of defeating the popular will whenever and however it should be expressed. Then the Returning Board was invented.
This new, with
7 given to any tribunal in any state. Its object was not to return,
but to suppress, the votes of the qualified electors, or change them
Report of Mr. Morrison's Louisiana Committee, February 1, 1877, p. 14.
to suit the occasion. By the terms of the law it can exclude, sup-
All men will agree that when violence, fraud, intimidation, etc.,
No man with sense enough to know his right hand from his left will need to be told that a monstrous thing like this cannot be constitutionally fastened upon a free state. A government that makes it one of its institutions ceases to be republican either in form or substance. The statute of Louisiana which undertook to create it was a mere nullity, and all its proceedings were destitute