Everything Points To A Democratic Victory This Fall

October 31, 1874, page 901

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Nine years have passed since Louisiana, wasted, ruined, and depraved by slavery and by rebellion, came out from a contest in which, had only the guilty suffered, it had been punished not half so severely as it deserved. Its slave-traders had forced it among the earliest into revolt. The very thought of a limitation upon their dreadful traffic filled them with unreflecting rage. The election of Lincoln seemed to menace the slave-trade on the Mississippi; the auction-blocks of New Orleans might no longer be supplied from Kentucky and Tennessee with human chattels; and the desperate leaders of the violent faction forced the small yet wealthy community to rise in arms against the government. With a population of perhaps seven hundred thousand, more than half of whom were colored, all Unionists in life and death, while of the whites it is not probable that a majority were ready for the mad measures of the slave-traders, the State soon felt the results of its folly, and fell again into the hands of the government. At the close of the rebellion Louisiana was impoverished with an excess of poverty to which not even South Carolina had reached. A large proportion of its white population were paupers, maintained by the alms of the national government. Its lucrative slave-trade was stopped forever; its colored people were free. There was no money to pay its taxes, no resources to maintain its levees; not hope of rescue from its fallen condition except the aid of the national government and the Northern capitalists. Of this, so generously offered, the State freely availed itself, and commerce once more began to revisit the deserted wharves of New Orleans. So fertile is its land, and so favorable the site of its metropolis, that a few years of peace would soon impart to Louisiana new elements of progress; and, as the center of Western trade, and the home of Western merchants, New Orleans might rise to a high rank among the sea-ports of the world.

But this the fallen rebels were resolved to prevent. Malice ruled in their counsels of such a depth of depravity as could only be born of the poisonous remnants of slavery. They formed secret associations, not, as one might suppose, to restore agriculture, to enlarge trade, to preserve good order, and invite the commerce and emigration of the West, but to insult and terrify honest Negro laborers, to drive off white settlers who were Republicans, and at last murder both; to hold the State in miserable poverty and force the people to live still on the alms of the government. The reports of the Ku-Klux Committee for 1871-1872 show how successfully the White Leaguers of four or five years ago overawed or ill-treated their miserable fellow-citizens; how in 1868 scarcely a Republican ventured to vote in many parishes, and what perpetual bankruptcy and poverty ruled in the small community. Two thousand persons were murdered by the White Leaguers in a population not much larger than that of Brooklyn.

The fact that the Ku-Klux or the White League began its reign of terror in Louisiana immediately after the war, and has continued it ever since, until it rose into the recent rebellion, or that the Democratic leaders, MíEnery and Penn, owe all their political strength to its prevalence, is what the chiefs of the lawless faction in the State would now willingly conceal. Having spread a deadly terror through all the Republican population, they are now satisfied, and they labor to hide from the Northern press and people by all their arts the means by which they hope to control all future elections. Yet it is plain to the whole Northern public that it is not any misgovernment on the part of the Kellogg rule that brought the White League into existence, since it appeared at once upon the close of the rebellion; nor is it the fault of the Federal officials that the assassins have ravaged the State under the names of Knights of the White Camellia or of a White Manís Party for the past nine years. It is not the State but the Federal government against which the outrages have been aimed. It was the lingering fires of rebellion that lazed up anew in unlucky Louisiana; and it is certain that no government favorable to the Union would satisfy these supporters of MíEnery and Penn. They will have nothing but an ascendancy of the rebel interests.

Our White Leaguers who were only a few days ago urging that every one who opposed their rule in New Orleans should be "shot down like a dog," are now complaining of "misrepresentation" and of the harsh construction put upon their actions by the more observant part of the Northern press. We think their actions are not unworthy of their words, and that they are not unknown to the history of the times. Never did so small a community as Louisiana in so few years exhibit such a succession of horrors. In 1868 we have the raids on the Negro voters detailed in the Ku-Klux reports, when the White Camellias dominated in the streets of New Orleans. In 1869-1871 fear kept them in tolerable quiet. In 1872 they re-appear. In 1873 they burned or shot down sixty or seventy Negroes at Grant Parish, and attempted an insurrection in New Orleans. In 1874 they have murdered the United States officials at Coushatta and a large number of Negroes; they have risen in rebellion in New Orleans and shot thirty or forty Unionists in a deadly contest. They are still importing large quantities of arms, and are evidently preparing for further massacres whenever the eye of the law is withdrawn. That such men should complain that they are "misrepresented" is an excess of effrontery; that they should find any portion of the Northern Democracy willing to believe any thing they choose to affirm against the Republican government is not a little remarkable. It is ridiculous to suppose that the murderers and revolutionists of 1874 are in any way to be disconnected from those of 1868 or 1873, or that MíEnery and Penn are not the chiefs of a band of assassins and outlaws of whom the white as well as the colored population of Louisiana would rejoice to be able to rid themselves.

There is evidently a strong desire entertained by the people of the whole country to bring back peace and prosperity to all the Southern States that are still suffering from the terrors of the White Manís League or the lingering penalties of the rebellion, and to lend aid to their merchants and farmers to rise from their temporary depression. They want capital and labor to extend their means of internal communication, and a large immigrant population to add to the value of their lands; they want public schools and churches, a free press, and liberty of speech and action to relieve them gradually from the influence of their dangerous classes, to diffuse knowledge, and increase the results of labor. But none of these can they hope to obtain in the midst of their civil convulsions. Insurrection is the most costly of political measures, and Louisiana is the most unlucky of all the States, because it has been tormented by a horde of traitors. While Charleston flourishes in peace and has become already an opulent sea-port, New Orleans is the scene of a lamentable decay. Galveston and Mobile draw away its commerce, and the Western merchants turn away in alarm from the home of the White Manís League. Even Florida, where peace has been maintained and the Ku-Klux apparently suppressed forever, has made a rapid progress, while Savannah languishes and Georgia is losing its population. If, therefore, the Northern and Western press are desirous of aiding in developing the natural advantages of the Southern States, it is plain that their first duty is to point out the causes that have led to their decay. Publicity and a perfect information of the real condition of the country are the earliest steps in its future advance. If there are outlaws in any of the States, or any reign of disorder, the truest friends of the South are those who expose and denounce them. Secrecy only increases the evil, and bad men hide their ill deeds in darkness.

The question is now fairly before the people, how can life and liberty be secured to all classes of our citizens in the Southern States, and those enormities prevented in the future that have made the name of Democracy in Tennessee and even Kentucky, in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Arkansas, odious to the instincts of civilization? Modern progress abhors the notion of murder and of inhumanity, and it would be well for our people to place the mark of their disapprobation upon the party that hopes to profit by these cruel measures at the South with so conclusive a condemnation as shall show how deeply they detest them.

It is quite certain that the Southern Democratic leaders have not begun as yet an era of peace. Every part of their section has shown traces of a war of intimidation against the Union party. It is only a short time ago that the Louisville papers related the outrages of the White Manís League almost in the suburbs of that city. Tennessee has recently been the scene of frightful massacres. The colored and white Republicans of the South, in many districts, vote with the fear of death before them. Their courage has been tested by nine years of perilous devotion to good order and peace. Will their countrymen now desert them? Eugene Lawrence.


This cartoon reflects the altered state of Southern politics in which the attempt by black men to vote had become a life-threatening risk. The scene is a dramatic contrast with Alfred Waudís 1867 illustration, "The First Vote." The corresponding text by journalist Eugene Lawrence, who wrote feature stories on the South for Harperís Weekly, details some examples of political violence during the retreat from Reconstruction.


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