February 6, 1864: Reconstruction of Arkansas

Slave population - Arkansas, 1860
Percent of population enslaved by county, 1860

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Little Rock having been taken by the Union the previous September, the northwestern counties of Arkansas held a convention to establish a new state constitution and rejoin the Union. Here they put out a call to unionists in Arkansas to take part in an election to ratify the constitution in March. As the map shows, there was a significant division in the state between slaveowning areas and non-slaveowing areas. The war in Arkansas was far from over, but under Lincoln’s reconstruction terms, it only takes 10% of the state’s population taking the oath for it to qualify to re-enter the union.

The New York Times publishes the election announcement:

TO THE PEOPLE OF ARKANSAS.
Published: February 6, 1864

The undersigned, citizen’s of Arkansas, having been on to Washington, D.C., and consulted with the authorities, are happy to announce that an opportunity will be afforded, harmonizing with the action of our late State Convention, to permanently reorganize our State Government, and that for this purpose a popular election will be held in March, A.D. 1864.

The bare announcement ought to thrill every lover of humanity — of his country, and of law and order, with unspeakable joy.

Need we offer argument or appeal to induce you to act?

In rebellion is anarchy and sorrow — and anguish, desolation and ruin irretrievable!

In coming home to the Government of our fathers, is peace, happiness, protection and hope for the future.

We have been through much of the North, and observed closely. The long and bitter agitation of the Slavery question, and this cruel and bloody war, have not been able to crush out of the hearts of Northern people their love for their Southern brothers. We will not be received back sullenly and bitterly, but by rejoicings and illuminations all over a happy land. They sympathize over our sufferings and sorrows, and with open hands and willing hearts are ready to do their utmost to alleviate them when we return. But they are determined. They are wealthy, powerful in numbers and resources, and full of the war spirit. They will never give up the Government. They know they can maintain and save it, and they mean to do it — even if the last of as should go down to bloody graves.

We hope every man who loves his country and his home will go to work. There can surely be no need of further delay upon our part.

To our brothers and friends who are yet in rebellion we desire to cay that an opportunity to offered to lay down your arms, save the remnant of your property, and come in to the support of the Government. It is not humiliating. Your names are blazoned upon history as gallant soldiers. The North, and that portion of the South, against which you have fought, will concede your heroism, how much ???oever they may condemn your course. Then be men. Be sublimer heroes than when you flamed in battle. Come back, and the world and good men will love and applaud you. Trust not to demagogues and ruined politicians. They are wrecked and hopeless, and would destroy the last one of you in the mad attempt to save themselves. Every day your numbers diminish, and your hopes depart, and your future darkens. You owe it to suffering wives and impoverished children, to ruined communities and destroyed society, to your country and humanity, to abandon a struggle that is wrong and hopeless.

To the refugees from our State, who are scattered all over the land, we urge you to come home and help us. Your principles have been tested in a crucible of fire. Your patriotism is noble and sublime. Many of your former abusers are now your most ardent admirers, and would urge you to return and give them your aid.

To one and all with united hearts and hands, let us make a noble effort to rescue our distressed and bleeding State from the grasp of her oppressors — and with the sympathy of all good men, and the aid of the National Government, we will again be free.

JOSIAH SNOW SAMUELD BELAUTE, JOHN KIRKWOOD, ISAAC C. MILLS, EDWARD W. GANTT.

Papers favorable to the cause please copy

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