November 23, 1865: Universal Suffrage?

John Mercer Langston
John Mercer Langston

The Cape Girardeau Argus of November 23, 1865 was mainly devoted to discussion of the proposed gravel road connecting Cape Girardeau and Bloomfield, but it did find room to quote a rival paper and take a poke at black suffrage.

Interestingly, a search of Oberlin College’s records didn’t show me any graduate named “S.W. Lanston”. In fact, the item almost certainly refers to John Mercer Langston, who was active immediately after the war in building support for the National Equal Rights League, and spoke in support of black suffrage in upper South states including Missouri. His Missouri tour started in late November in St. Louis, where he told a large mixed-race crowd “You have got a foe to deal with whom you have not understood. You have whipped him on the battlefield, and his boast is that he will now whip you on the field of politics, and there you have got to fight another battle.” (Parrish, W.E. Missouri Under Radical Rule 1865-1870. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1965. p.134)


S. W. Lanston, an able colored graduate of Oberlin, is about to stump this State in behalf of universal suffrage. — [Radical.

How do you stand on this subject now, neighbor? “Universal suffrage” includes rebels, as well as niggers. You go the latter, of course — but we simply want to know if you think it possible that a white man may be as good as a nigger.

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