Dec. 7, 1865: Signs and portents

Biela's comet and the end of the world

A couple of small items were all I found of real interest in the Dec. 7 Cape Girardeau Argus. First, the local Grand Jury was instructed to enforce the Iron-clad Oath in the new state constitution, even against ministers. Second, an item refers to the approach of “Bela’s comet” — undoubtedly Biela’s comet — which actually broke up in 1852, and was not seen in 1865. This comet’s orbit intersected that of the earth, though it never came close to collision. It was apparently responsible for periodic meteor showers for some time after its demise.

The Grand Jury

At a the meeting of the Circuit Court on Monday the Grand Jury were instructed to indict all persons guilty of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and all school marms who had not taken the oath.


Bela’s comet — one of the largest and brightest known — is approaching the earth. It is now only six hundred millions of miles distant, and will continue its advance movement until February.

Posted in Loyalty oath, Missouri | Leave a comment

November 30, 1865: Immigrants go to loyal counties

An editorial from the Missouri Weekly Patriot out of Springfield, dated November 30, 1865, notes that immigration into the state is apparently correlated with support for abolition and the new state constitution, and assures its readers (rather naively) that all they need do is hold on, and the Radical majority will grow more secure.

In a separate item, they mention threats to burn down a school for black children because the teacher is white.

Progress of Missouri

It is estimated by those who have the best means of judging, that the immigration to Missouri at the present time averages not less than one thousand persons per week. The men, women and children composing this army of occupation add to the wealth of our State in a ratio which it is impossible to estimate. As cultivators of the soil, mechanics and manufacturers, they are a splendid acquisition, but their value to Missouri stops not there. They are chiefly from the free State of the North and from Germany, and come neither empty handed nor empty headed. They are generally intelligent and industrious people, who bring with them sufficient means to establish themselves comfortably in their new homes, and not a few of them are capitalists, who come to enter upon a field of enterprise which, at the present time, has no equal for the employment of energy and moderate wealth in the whole country. Of course Missouri is not standing sill while this current of living power is freshly pouring into her veins, and tend it her development in every form and direction. Improvement is the order of the day in every section of her territory. We question wheather any State in the Union, in which the precious metals have not been discovered, has ever made the same progress over a period equal to that which has elapsed since the adoption of the emancipation ordinance in Missouri.

This condition of things is more than satisfactory. What a splendid indorsement it furnishes to the policy which has prevailed in the State under its present Radical rule? That which gave Missouri her first great impulse was the immediate abolition of slavery – peculiarly a Radical measure. That which next contributed to the same end, was the adoption of the New Constitution. This last important action of the people settled, in public opinion, the question of Missouri’s future, creating confidence throughout the country in the loyalty and stability of her government. Had the New Constitution been defeated, Missouri might not have positively retrograded, but her progress for some time would have been very slow, and immigration would have continue to flow chiefly from Kentucky, Tennessee and other Southern States, as it was before slavery was abolished. The importance of the change, in this respect, we need not discuss.

Of course there has been bitter opposition to the workings of the New Constitution, as there was to its adoption. Every new reformatory system has met with precisely the same character of opposition. Nevertheless the Constitution as a whole is not only an established, but an unprecedented success. It is growing stronger and more popular day by day, although, not perfect in all its details. It is noticeable that the opposition to it as a whole, has already narrowed down to the purely disloyal element. The Blair men who join with the rebels in their denunciations of the Constitution, probably do not number two hundred, all told in the State.

One of the peculiar evidences of the New Constitution’s strength and popularity is shown in the advantage which those counties voting for it enjoy in the matter of immigration. Immigrants, as a general thing study most keenly the political character of the country, being especially anxious to get into loyal neighborhoods. One of the first question we have always been asked relates to this point. Hence it is that great satisfaction is expressed, when the county or section inquired after is spoken of as having voted for the New Constitution, and the districts which enjoy this recommendation have, in point of fact, secured the lion’s share of the new settlement. We have no doubt the land of those counties which supported the New Constitution is to-day, on that account, relatively five dollars per acre higher than in the counties which voted against it, taking the whole State into the calculation.

In view of these facts the loyal men of Missouri have especial reason to be encouraged. They have but to stand to their principles and be united and, all is safe. The efforts of the Blair-Bogy agitators, directed against the New Constitution, directed against loyal immigration, directed against progress and improvement of all kinds, because the New Constitution and immigration and progress and improvement are fatal to their political ascendancy, will miserably fail. In the light of passing events, so manifest that every man of sober reason can read them at a glance, their struggles and contortions, induced by their frantic resistance to a better and nobler condition of things, become ludicrous in the extreme.

The Western Border Times learns that threats have been made to burn the school house in which the colored children are there taught, because the school is taught by a white lady, a member of the “Northwestern Freedman’s Commission.” The Times protests against such an outrage, and says:

“The city authorities are at a loss what to do in the premises. The parties interested in property in the vicinity are uneasy. We do not think there is much danger. But be that as it may, were me Mayor of the city, we would make it the especial duty of the blacks to watch the school, and we would tell them to defend it at all hazards. This the blacks would most cheerfully do.”

Posted in Education, Emancipation, Freedmen, Missouri, Missouri Weekly Patriot, Republican | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Franchise, Racism, Reconstruction | Leave a comment

November 16, 1865: Reconstruction controversies

Thaddeus Stevens
Thaddeus Stevens


The Cape Girardeau Argus for November 16, 1865 shows its preferred Reconstruction policies in a couple of items reproduced from other papers. First, wondering why so many immigrants (and in Cape Girardeau County, these would mainly be Germans) support the Radicals, when they’d let a black man become president when an immigrant would be ineligible? And second, castigating Radicals like Thaddeus Stevens for disagreeing with the President — didn’t they say it was treason to oppose Lincoln during the war?

By the Constitution of the United States no foreign born citizen can ever be President or Vice President. When the Radicals accomplish their object, and allow negroes to vote, a rapid negro will be eligible to offices from which the foreigner is excluded. The negro will occupy the first place, and the negro the second in the political system. Are such of our naturalized citizens as are acting with the Radical Republicans willing by their votes to give the negroes a privilege which the Constitution denies to all of foreign birth? -Cairo Dem.


The leading Republicans are wheeling into line rapidly against President Johnson and his reconstruction policy. The Toledo Record learns that “General Schenck, the other night, in that town, denounced with great vehemence the Mississippi Convention, and announced that no such convention should ever be allowed to restore any Southern State to the Union.”

After the fall elections the malcontents will be more outspoken. Already Wilson and Thad. Stevens have openly taken ground against the President, and by the time of the meeting of Congress the whole radical pack will be in full cry against him. – New York World

These fellows ought to be taken care of; they are “disloyal.” They used to tell us that the President was the “Government,” and that to oppose the President was to oppose the Government; and any man who did so was a traitor. Suppose “the Government” now give them a dose of their own remedy– arrest them and put them in Fort Lafayette or Fort Warren to cure their disloyalty Wouldn’t the loyal Leaguers howl then? — Quincy Herald

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November 9, 1865: Miscellaneous items

Governor Fletcher
“Thomas Clement Fletcher” by Missouri Life Inc. – Missouri Governor Portraits.

The Cape Girardeau Argus of November 9, 1865 has a number of items of interest. First, Governor Fletcher shows himself to be a somewhat moderate Radical, asking for modifications to the new Missouri Constitution’s “ironclad oath” provisions.

Touching the new Constitution, [Governor Fletcher] recommends such amendments as will exempt from the requirements of the second article all officers, trustees, directors or other managers of corporations for benevolent purposes, in which neither the United States, this State, nor any county, city or town is interested as a stockholder, creditor or contributor, as well as all professors or teachers in schools, not endowed, supported or in any manner contributed to by the United States, this State, or any county, city, or town. He recommends also the striking out the 23rd and 24th sections of Article II, requiring persons who have served in the Union Army to expurgate themselves from former sympathy with the rebellion. He concludes by recommending the establishment of a Soldier’s Home.

Then there’s an item about Charles Sumner’s demand that the Southern States enfranchise freedmen. Of course the Argus is opposed, and they garnish that opposition with a tidbit from the Louisville Journal.

Mr. Sumner says President Johnson must not let the Southern States come into the Union until they admit the negroes to the suffrage. President Johnson has no more right to do this than he has to drive Northern States out of the Union because they don’t admit negroes to the suffrage.


Is not the negro a man and a brother? — N.Y. Independent.
He may be your brother or half brother; he is not relation of ours. — Louisville Journal

Finally, a note about Congressional Radicals and their early attempts to impeach Johnson.

Their Bill of Indictment.

According to the Washington correspondent of the Philadelphia Ledger, which is not a partisan paper, the radicals are busily organizing for the fight in Congress and have preferred their bill of indictment against the President. It embraces the following counts:

1. Refusal to extend negro suffrage.
2. The appointment of secessionists as provisional Governors.
3. The free exercise of the pardoning power, wherein were included many who should have been hanged.
4. The introduction of arms into Southern States.
5. The disbanding of the colored regiments.
6. The refusal to issue a sweeping confiscation.
7. The restoration of the Southern churches.
8. The refusal to arraign Lee, the leader of the rebel hosts, after he had been indicted for treason.
9. The refusal to try Davis in a military court.
10. The apathy shown in the enforcement of the Monroe doctrine, as applicable to Mexico.

— Cairo Dem.

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November 2, 1865: Blair and the Mass Convention

Francis P. Blair Jr.

The Cape Girardeau Argus of November 2, 1865 reports on the convention held in St. Louis to marshal opposition to Missouri’s 1865 Constitution. The star of the show was Gen. Frank Blair, scion of a politically powerful Missouri family, and standard-bearer of the Unionist Democrats in the region. Blair’s power base was threatened by the new constitution, which required voters (and teachers, etc.) to take the “ironclad oath” that they had not supported rebellion against the government. Excluding all the secessionists shifted the balance toward the Radical Republicans, who are the “usurpers” editorialized against in the second item below.

The convention didn’t really produce any immediate results, but it apparently helped to organize the Democratic opposition, which would eventually succeed in producing a Reconstruction constitution for the state in 1875.

The second resolution’s language claiming the right of the state to determine who could vote seems as much aimed at preventing black suffrage as in re-enfranchising former Confederates.

Resolution 9, opposing Thomas v. Mead, requires a little digging to understand. The Constitutional Convention of 1865 declared all state judgeships vacant, and empowered the Governor to fill such posts. A court clerk, Andrew Mead, was commanded to relinquish records to the new court. He refused and appealed to the state Supreme Court. That court held that the governor exercised the “sovereign executive power” of the state, and was acting legally in carrying out the orders of the Constitutional Convention. In the process, they were confirming their own positions as judges.

Resolution 10 seems to imply that anyone who disagrees with this group is not a law-abiding citizen, since the issues “stand above all mere party considerations”.


This monster gathering of the people assembled at Verandah Hall, in St. Louis, on Thursday, 26th ult. It is impossible for us to give the whole proceedings, and we therefore content ourselves with stating what was done in the shortest space possible.

When the Convention met, Barton Able was named temporary chairman, the customary committees on permanent organization, resolutions, &c., appointed, and after their retirement, Gen. Frank P. Blair was called for and for some three hours entertained the convention with the master speech of his life, after which an adjournment was had for dinner. On re-assembling, the Committee on Permanent Organization reported the name of Sam T. Glover as President, with a long list of Vice Presidents and Secretaries. Mr. Glover, on taking the chair, spoke for some two hours, reviewing the whole situation, and enchaining the vast audience by his eloquence. At its conclusion, the convention adjourned to Friday at 10 o’clock. On re-assembling, Mr. Foy, Chairman of the Committee on Resolutions, reported the following, which were taken up separately, and passed without a dissenting voice:

We, the people of Missouri, in Convention assembled, to pledge ourselves to the support of President Johnson in his arduous task of reorganizing the Southern States, and restoring the Union, and also to aid in restoring the principles of civil and religious liberty and equality in this State, which have been stricken down by the so-called New Constitution, resolve:

1. That we are grateful to Almighty God that peace is restored to our country, and that the result of the war has been to leave the union of these States unbroken; that the brave men who under the leadership of our great Generals and Admirals were instrumental in achieving that result, have an undying place in our affection and esteem.

2. That the States in our system of government have equal rights, and this equality is the corner stone of the Union; that no State can either secede or be expelled from the Union, or be degraded below the others, or be deprived of any Federal right, power or privilege which is exercised by any other; that among the equal rights of the States, none is clearer or more vital than that of each one to designate who shall vote within its limits; and that we applaud President Johnson for having recognized and acted upon this important principle in instituting his reorganization measures.

3. That as an obvious corollary from these elementary truths, Senators and Representatives elected to Congress who are duly accredited under the broad seal of their respective States, have an indisputable right to seats in that body, and to speak and vote therein on taking the Constitutional oath; that a refusal to admit them would be revolutionary and dangerous proceeding, and as much a violation of the bond of Union as the secession ordinances of the States lately in rebellion.

4. That peace being now restored, we regard with extreme dislike the exercise of judicial powers by military commanders or military commissioners, and we most respectfully entreat the President to curb the arbitrary power of the military subordinates in this respect, and to compel all executive officers of the Government to recognize the supremacy of the judicial tribunals, and the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus.

5. That the action of the late State Convention in attempting to disfranchise a large number of their own constituents, in trammeling the educational interests of the State, in restricting civil and religious liberty, by imposing retrospective test oaths, in taxing churches, seminaries, orphan asylums, graveyards and other species of property never before subjected to taxation, and in refusing to submit their said action to the vote of the people by whom they were elected, was in violation of republican liberty and the Constitution of the United States, and deserves the censure and condemnation of an outraged people; and that in view of these and other odious features of the so-called Constitution, we recommend the calling of a Convention with power to adopt a Constitution embodying the principles of civil and religious liberty, which shall be submitted to the people for ratification.

6. That the Registry Law provided by the so-called New Constitution of this state is subversive of the liberties of the people, and we appeal to our present General Assembly by every principle of justice not to attempt to force so great an outrage on this State.

7. That we accept as final and irrevocable the ordinance abolishing slavery in this State.

3[sic]. That it is the duty of all good citizens to use their best endeavors to allay all feelings of animosity resulting from the late rebellion, and that in this spirit we cordially approve, on the part of the President, a just and liberal exercise of the pardoning power.

9. That we reject as foreign to the principles of American institutions, the doctrine announced by the so-called judges of the Supreme Court in the case of Thomas vs. Mead, to wit: that “the Governor is sovereign in political power;” and that we condemn as dangerous and pernicious the practice, by them for the first time introduced into Missouri, of Judges deciding causes in which they are personally interested.

10. That the issues, State and Federal, now dividing the people of Missouri, are vital and fundamental, involving the stability of free institutions and the existence of civil and religious liberty, and stand above all mere party considerations; and we therefore appeal to all law-abiding citizens to cordially unite with us in redeeming the nation and the State from the perils that environ them.

11. That the speedy redemption of the national debt is a sacred duty, and for this purpose the necessary initiatory steps ought to be taken at the next session of Congress, and that the war debt of Missouri should be assumed by the Federal Government, and that Missouri, in this respect, should be placed on an equal footing with her loyal sister States.

12. That the conduct of Governor Fletcher, by his violent and unauthorized interference with the judiciary — a co-ordinate and independent department of the Government — by his tacit approval of the murder of citizens by militia, claiming to act under his authority; by his encouraging the prosecution of ministers, priests, teachers and harmless women, for their refusal to take a repulsive test oath; by his attempts to overawe civil tribunals, and subvert their privileges by the forcible installation into office of men whose claims present judicial questions, merits our severest censure, as dangerous violations of the principles of Republican Government.

A resolution was adopted inviting Edward Bates to a seat in the Convention.

A State Central Committee was appointed.

The balance of the time was consumed in addresses by different men of eminence.

On Thursday and Friday evenings immense concourses of people were addressed at the courthouse by Wm.A.Hall, Judge Hicks, Blair, Bogy, and others. Six bands of music were in attendance.

Cape Girardeau county was represented by Eugene Garaghty, J Burrough, H.H.M.Williams, David W. Shepperd, John R. Henderson, R.W.Harris, M.J. Hines, and W.M. Hamilton. From Scott County, Augustus J. Youngman, Levi S. Green, and John Sikes. New Madrid County, T.J. O’Morrison, John T. Scott, S.T. Davis, and F.C. Butler. Perry County, Hon. Thos. E. Noell, R.M Brewer, Felix Layton, J.H. Abernethy, Jos. Meyer, Wm. Allen, Leo Moore.



The great Mass Convention is over and Verandah Hall will from this time forth be to Missouri what Independence Hall is to the history of the nation. With great hope, yet with no small trepidation of heart, have we awaited the result. Its triumphant and glorious termination has more than realized our most sanguine expectations. Human liberty and the just rights of humanity have been vindicated.

When we surveyed that vast assemblage and studied the men of whom it was composed, our mind was carried back to that other assemblage whose wisdom, unshrinking courage, and daring patriotism gave birth to the liberties of which we are so justly proud. Frank, decorous and earnest, animated with but one object — the redemption from thraldom of their beloved state, the Reconstruction of the national government upon its primitive basis — were the men who made up this Convention. Ever fair in the discussion of deeply interesting questions, fearless in the manner in which they met the difficulties of the hour, and most admirable for the manly spirit of mutual concession — ever disregarding dead issues, and prompt to meet living ones — they moved on in harmonious unity, and proved themselves to be men of no common order. By their wisdom they have baffled their enemies, and by forgetting old party issues, associations and preferences, they have sadly disappointed their most malignant defamers. They did not meet for dissension and strife; they met to endorse and support the reconstruction policy of President Johnson and to free oppressed Missouri from thralldom — and right well and nobly have they performed their duty. In vain their enemies raved around them. The firm rock does not more easily dash the tempest driven wave into spray, than these men threw to the winds the many intrigues and subtle schemes devised by their enemies — by malevolent and apprehensive adversaries for their destruction. Truly were they confounded who sought their destruction. Truly were they turned backward and put to shame who sought evil to them, and all their malice was wasted. For these noble men recognized their enemy without an effort, and recognized also in their common opposition to the foe, the bond of an inevitable, unavoidable and cheerful friendship. This foe so monstrous in its proportions, so unscrupulous in its means, and who had so long rioted upon their plundered liberties, could only be subdued by unity; in union was their strength, and they were united. All the resolutions reported to the Convention were unanimously adopted — not one single member composing the Convention voting against them — a fact unparalleled in the history of Conventions.

In these resolutions the members pledge the State to support the policy of President Johnson; and to oppose by every legal means the new Constitution of Missouri. They accept as final and irrevocable the abolition of slavery — thus ending the question forever. In bold and unmistakeable language they denounced the New Constitution, and bigots who framed it, and the usurpers who are in office under it. They demand in most emphatic language a new constitution, and ask for no partial relief of a lingering amendment. To obtain this they mean war without quarter against the vile instrument, and most respectfully appeal to the Legislature to call a new Convention. They have made a plain, square and fair issue. They have marked out their battleground, and have retired to their homes, determined to fight it out if it takes a dozen summers. Of the enemy no favors are asked, and very few will be shown.

Those who maintain that infamous document, with its oaths and disabilities and disfranchisements, are fighting against the mightiest ideas of the age — against civil and religious liberty, the rights of conscience, the liberty of speech and freedom of worship — and if they wish to break their heads against a stone wall, let them do it. At too late an hour in the day do they become the champion of despotism bigotry and wrong — their graves were dug the last century. The right will triumph in the end, and the end is not far distant. War has been proclaimed against the dominant power in the State. The wishes and impulses of the people must and will be respected, and wo[e] to the man or body of men who dare oppose it.

Posted in Democrats, Francis Preston Blair, Reconstruction, Republican | Leave a comment

October 26, 1865: Building opposition to the Missouri Constitution

Cape Girardeau Weekly Argus of October 26, 1865 reports on a trip about 50 miles to the southwest, to Bloomfield, MO. As the author tells us, opposition to the new Missouri Constitution was strong there in Stoddard County, and they were selecting delegates to send to the Mass Convention in St. Louis that has been mentioned before.

The mention of “chills and fever” is interesting — most likely people in the area suffered chronically from malaria. The region was largely swamp, with high ground mainly on Crowley’s Ridge; it would be drained in the early part of the 20th century by the Little River Project, which created vast swaths of fertile farmland at the expense of a millions of acres of wetlands teeming with wildlife.

Trip to Bloomfield.

We spent the past week among our hospitable and generous friends of Bloomfield — the Circuit Court (Judge Emerson presiding,) being in session there at the time.

The charge of Judge Emerson to the grand jury was characterized by that full, broad and manly sense of freedom which is the attribute of the true man. We found young Mr. D.S. Crumb officiating as deputy clerk, in this court, and an excellent one he makes, too.

We found many of our friends suffering from chills and fever, and much sickness prevailing everywhere – although, as a general thing, not of a fatal character.

On Monday, a meeting was convened for the purpose of appointing delegates to the Mass Convention at St. Louis to-day, and we had the pleasure of listening to a couple of very able speeches, in opposition to the New Constitution, by Judge Greene, of our county, and William T. Leeper, of Wayne County. They did much good toward moving the people to array themselves against that damnable instrument in coming elections.

At this meeting Mr. H.H. Swasey was nominated as the anti-Constitution candidate for Representative, which, unless other candidates of the same political faith enter the lists, is equivalent to an election. He has our warmest wishes for success over any friend of the odious instrument.

The town of Bloomfield has suffered terribly from the effects of war — on the site of the former centre of the town stands the immense fort constructed in the last days of the rebellion, and which will require the expenditure of an immense amount of time and money to level down; but her people are alive to the future, and their energy and perseverance are equal to the task before them. A number of fine, substantial buildings are being erected there.

While there we had the pleasure of meeting a number of the officers and citizens of Dunklin county, which has just been reorganized, with Dr. Jacob Snider, Mr. Shelton and Mr. White as County Judges; Lieut. Rathbun as Sheriff, and Lem. T. Bragg as Circuit and County Clerk — all excellent appointments. We congratulate the citizens of Dunklin on the restoration of law and order once more. They have plenty of cotton, which is an element of future prosperity.

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October 19, 1865: Preparing for the Mass Convention

The Cape Girardeau Weekly Argus of October 19, 1865 published the call for a Mass Convention in st. Louis to support presidential reconstruction and to oppose the new Missouri constitution with its “cocklebur” oath that kept former Confederates out of almost all public positions. Along with this statewide call, it also published the report of a local meeting called to select delegates for that Mass Convention. The resolutions passed by the Cape Girardeau County meeting include a call to preserve constitutional liberties, and especially to oppose “the policy of adulterating our civil liberty by the admixture of negro franchise with the white man’s”.

Public Meeting

Pursuant to call a respectable number of the citizens of Cape Girardeau County assembled at the court house in the town of Jackson for the purpose of passing resolutions expressive of the sense of the meeting and to appoint delegates to the Grand Mass Convention to be held in the city of St. Louis on the 26th October, 1865. The meeting was called to order by Captain Jacob H. Burrough, when Judge Thomas B. English was called to the chair and explained the object of the meeting, whereupon, on motion, Jacob Tobler was appointed secretary. On motion, it was agreed that the Chairman appoint persons as a committee to draft and report resolutions, when the chair appointed Judge George H. Greene, Capt. Jacob H. Burrough, William M. Hamilton, Robert W. Harris and William E. Alexander as such committee, who, after having withdrawn for some time, reported the following resolutions:

Resolved, that we approve of the objects and purposes of the Mass Convention to be held on the 26th inst., as explained in the call for the same, and that it is expedient that the friends of order and enlightened civil liberty be represented therein from this county.

Resolved, that we rejoice in the restoration of peace and the Union and we hope to soon see a revival of prosperity and fraternal relations among the states and people of the two great sections recently estranged by a mad fratricidal conflict, and we approve of the policy of reconstruction announced by President Johnson, having this patriotic object in view, by securing the principles of sound Republican Government, founded on the consent of the governed, under a mild and liberal policy in which we so prospered in the palmy days of the Republic.

Resolved, that all honor is due our brave troops, both regular and militia, who so gallantly battled for the flag of the country, and the restoration of Union and Constitutional liberty; that the work will be but half done if a rampant spirit of Revolution, as wild and destructive as Secession, be permitted to fasten upon the country and overthrow civil and religious freedom, and trample the Constitution under foot.

Resolved, that we are opposed, as inimical to progress and destructive of liberty, the policy of adulterating our civil liberty by the admixture of negro franchise with the white man’s. It’s [sic] effect must be to lower the standard of our civilization, and introduce confusion, anarchy and disorder.

Resolved, that the New Constitution of this State, in some of its provisions, is illiberal und unjust in the extreme, and in contravention of the Constitution of the United States, unworthy of an enlightened age, and calculated to keep up strife among our citizens, even after peace has been restored, and to retard the growth and prosperity of the State; and therefore that the objectional features ought to be modified or repealed, so soon as the same can be done by Constitutional and lawful means.

Resolved, that ____________ be appointed delegates from the County to said Convention, and that they have power to substitute others in their respective places in case of vacancy.

Which resolutions being read, were on motion adopted.

It was then moved and carried that the blank in the last resolution be filled with the names of twenty citizens from this County as such delegates, to be appointed by the Chair. Upon which, the following persons were appointed:
Judge George H. Greene, Capt. J. H. Burrough, Col. H. H. M. Williams, Wm. M. Hamilton, Robert W. Harris, Dr. Kendell H. Burford, Eugene Garaghty, Capt. Elisha Sheppard, James M. McGuire, Major David W. Shepperd, Capt. Ezra King, Samuel M. Green, Andrew Clippard, William F. Kinder, jr., Amzi D. Leech, Isom Strong, John R. Henderson, David C. Hope, John J. Miller and William E. Alexander.

Whereupon, on motion, the Chair was added to the list of delegates.

On motion, it was resolved that the proceedings of this meeting be made out, signed by the officers, and sent to the Cape Girardeau Argus for publication. Whereupon the meeting adjourned.

Thos. B. English, Ch’n.
Jacob Tobler, Secretary.

Posted in Franchise, Freedmen, Missouri, Reconstruction | Leave a comment

October 12, 1865: More from Mississippi

As promised, the Cape Girardeau Weekly Argus of October 12, 1865 ran the second installment of “Baldface”s report of his travels in Mississippi. This one has some fascinating stuff: the destruction of the railroads, the value of black soldiers, class differences in the response to the Southern defeat, etc. Most noteworthy are the planters’ fears that free black people won’t produce cotton as well (productivity didn’t return to pre-war levels for many decades). The solution of bringing in Chinese “coolie” labor is suggested, with the advantage that the Chinese will kill themselves if you make them angry. I suppose the author is indulging in a bit of hyperbole about the callousness of the planters, but I may be an optimist. Finally, the author mentions the passion of the freedmen for education. And apparently of freed women for nice shoes, and their feet are bigger than those of white women?

From Mississippi.
Jackson, Miss., Sept. 26.

Dear Argus: the close of my last letter left us at Vicksburg, having just finished an examination of the strongholds held by the rebel soldiers and the bomb-proof residences occupied by the non-combatants.

On the second morning we commenced loading up our teams for Jackson — a distance of fifty miles due east. The rates were $2.50 per cwt. We were shocked, and had the teamster repeat it several times before we were satisfied we understood him — thinking all the time he took us for some wandering nomads, and wished to have a little joke with us. But our empty pocket-books will bear us witness that it was no joke.

We stowed our precious selves away on the cars, and after a twelve-mile ride were dumped off at Big Black. You know all about Big Black. or at least you’ve heard of it often enough. If the prefix “big” had been left off, 1 should have had no cause to quarrel with the name. Everything looked black enough to us at this moment. The sun was nearly setting, and the distance to the first house where we could obtain accommodations, was six miles. With legs wearied to a full appreciation of the horizontal, we reached the place. It was what was once a wealthy planter’s residence; but the planter had generously reimbursed nature, and his property went to some extent to reimburse the “Yankees” for their troublesome march through the country. The old lady that officiated as our hostess was a perfect Xantippe. Her tongue was double-shotted and every poor “Yank ” that came within range suffered the consequence of his temerity.

It is necessary to pass over the line of the southern road to form any idea of the amount of railroad property destroyed. Every station, and nearly every town or village adjacent, between Vicksburg and Meridian, are destroyed. Not a vestige of any of the bridges or trestle-work were left, and acres of ground covered with trucks and the other iron appendages of locomotives and cars, bore ample testimony to the amount of rolling stock destroyed.

The city of Jackson suffered terribly. Its business streets wore completely destroyed. The capitol, the Court House, and the Governor’s residence escaped the general conflagration. The Penitentiary is among the ruins, and so are all the fine railroad buildings of both roads. Some buildings were pied by shells, though generally it was the work of incendiarism. The business part of the town is rebuilding with great rapidity, and hundreds of negroes are receiving employment in removing the debris, and in taking down the shattered walls; while the sound of the plane, saw and hammer is monotonous — Two hundred buildings will have been erected this month, though some are but temporary structures. An ordinary store-room rents at $250 per month, and large stocks of goods are awaiting the completion of these buildings.

The number of negroes in the city is very large. You can hire any number of them at $1.00 per day, while the minimum price for board among the whites is $2.00 per day. Planters complain that it is impossible to keep negroes at work on the plantations — their desire to crowd into cities where soldiers are stationed being so great.

The negro soldier, I am convinced, is quite an improvement on the white volunteer. They are better drilled, better disciplined, and better behaved than any volunteers I met during the war. Citizens have stated to me frequently that the presence of negro soldiers was almost more than any Southern man could bear and expressed the hope that they would in a short time have their State Militia organized. I thought of the pleasures we derived from our Missouri State Militia. That organization was a splendid travesty on protection. — Cut-throats set free to act their pleasure. I advised those with whom I conversed on the subject, to thank God they had negro soldiers, officered as they were, to protect them until all military organizations should cease to be a necessity.

I had an interview with Gov. Sharkey. I found him a very courteous gentleman, and laboring industriously to restore the State to quiet and prosperity. He has much to adjust, and the new order of things will give the next Legislature a broad field in which to show their patriotism and statesmanship. If the State and County offices in Mississippi are not filled by good men, it will not be owing to a scarcity of office-seekers, for there are no less than eight or ten competitors for the several offices in the gift of the people. Among the candidates I notice many that have an especial claim on the loyal voters of the state, and that claim they herald with seeming pride in their circulars: “lost a leg,” or “arm,” as the case may be, on some one of the ma y sanguinary battle-fields. The services they performed in endeavoring to destroy their country is held forth as an inducement to voters to select them to repair the damages done. “The hair of the dog is good for the bite.”

The ignorant, unlettered people of Mississippi — especially the young un-married men — are still hot-headed secessionists. They never understood the real issue of the war, and probably never will. They still have hope that through Pappy Price, Maximilian and God, something will turn up to secure the final independence of the South. They are waiting and ready to join any armed force against the United States. There is another and better class of people — those that led off in the rebellion — who are endeavoring to make the amende honorable by encouraging loyalty and industry, and are leaving nothing undone that will re-establish their old functional relation with the government. Planters, for a long time after the surrender, believed it impossible to raise cotton without slave labor, but they are becoming hopeful, and are making all needful arrangements to raise this valuable staple on a scale not far short of the more palmy days of cotton raising. The importation of Coolies is talked of by many planters. The Coolies, they say, have one commendable quality at least which the free negro is not in possession of, “that if one don’t suit you all you’ve got to do is to make him mad, and he will kill himself.” This is, to say the least, an equivocal virtue in the poor Coolie.

But I am of opinion, they will have much less trouble with the free negro than they anticipate. When he comes to work for himself, and is to enjoy the benefits of his own labor, the mechanical movement he manifests under the lash will be replaced by a prompt, energetic one,that self-interest will always promote. I discover they manifest great industry at their books at present. There is not one but has his spelling book, and in camp, when off duty, is studying with an earnestness creditable to any white student. To learn to read and write seems their highest ambition. They are so seldom to be found without a book in their possession, that to conclude the negro and his book were one and inseparable, would be natural enough.

The other day a negro, well advanced in years, called for a first reader. I asked him if he intended learning to read. “No,” he replied, “I’se want it for my old fadder. He can’t work any more, and he wants to learn so he can read de Bible.” — Sceptic as I am I was pleased with the old negro’s desire to read his Bible.

The demand for spelling books and for “fine ladies shoes number eleven,” is very great. Eastern manufacturers of fine shoes will have to run their numbers to fifteen, to supply the southern demand.


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October 5, 1865: A visit to Mississippi

The Cape Girardeau Argus prints a letter from a local who is traveling down the river to Mississippi. It’s interesting how quickly battle sites became objects of tourist interest. The writer’s account of seeing Fort Pillow shows how strongly the massacre impressed people in the North, and he expresses wonder that Vicksburg was ever taken.

From Mississippi.


I am sweltering in the heat of a Mississippi September and sighing for fountain of cold, limpid water. We must know the want of good water before we can fully appreciate its blessings. Mint juleps, sherry cobblers, and foaming milk punches are all very nice as embellishments — as grace notes to the requirements of the gastronomic medley — but the liquid notes of some rock-bound brook is necessary to fill the measure.

The water throughout the state is bad — very bad. If there is any good water here I have failed to find it, and I have tried a large number of cisterns and wells throughout the state. Some of it does very well when there is ice in it; but as ice is twenty-five cents per pound, and scarcely any in the country, the chances are that you will do a great deal of water drinking minus the slippery element. O for an iceberg at my elbow, that I might feet its frigid breath while I write, and see it take to its frosty embrace the last of those blood-thirsty mosquitoes.

Our trip from St. Louis to Vicksburg was a pleasant one. The officers of the Ida Handy united their efforts with those of the passengers to make the trip one that would live long and pleasantly in the memory of all on board. The country on either side of the river looked lonely and deserted; but we were frequently passing points of some historical interest in the events of the rebellion. Fort Pillow brought all the passengers on the promenade deck and was viewed with thoughts as variable as the mixed sentiments of the crowd would suggest. To me there was something gloomy and horrible connected with it. Whether it was the face of the bluffs and deeply washed hills that gave rise to these sentiments, or the horrible massacre connected with it, I am unable to say; but thoughts of Cawnpore and its horrors blended with fancied streams of bloody coursing down the clayey gulches– horrible arteries for human blood– and that too from an imploring and surrendered garrison– were uppermost in my mind.

We passed Napoleon in the evening. It is here where the Conestoga cut-off shortened the former length of the river twenty-four miles. The old bed of the river is left high and dry, and its white sandy bottom is radiating its unequal heat. It looks for all the world a miniature Sahara to the eye.

We found all the river towns more or less brisk, and nearly all the small villages seemed to be doing something in the cotton business. As we neared Vicksburg the destruction of an invading army became more visible. The residence of the planter, with its beautiful grove of orange-trees, magnolias and exotics, was now marked by naked chimneys that stood as unpleasant monuments of the demon — they are but grim vestiges of the once opulent and picturesque surroundings.

As the fortified heights of Vicksburg became visible opera glasses were suddenly brought into great demand, and any officer or soldier on board who had been engaged in its capture or defense –and we had a number of both on board — were immediately lionized and surrounded by a crowd of eager questioners. — The one receiving my audience was an officer aboard the Louisville when she ran the blockade and the terrible ordeal of shot and shell thro’ which passed was related to us with great vividness.

Once landed at Vicksburg, and our freight and baggage carefully stowed away on the wharf-boat, we started through the city in search of “sights.” The supply of goods in different establishments seemed very large — enough so to excite surprise; and the amount of stir met on every hand assured us that a heavy trade was going on with the interior. Cavalry men were dashing through the street with a perfect disregard for horse-flesh; negro soldiers were stoically pacing their beat, and great caravans of cotton teams were arriving with that staple, and returning heavily laden with stores for the interior. I saw nothing indicating dullness in Vicksburg — not even our hotel bill.

The streets leading back from the river are cut through the hills and you will find frequently a perpendicular embankment on either side of you, fifty feet in height. The sides of these embankments are tunneled, and perforated every few steps by an oblong entrance that leads to a nicely excavated chamber, and that again to a suit of rooms, as the sex and color of the occupant might have required. Some of these chambers are casemated with lumber and neatly plastered. Luxury and comfort were not forgotten in dodging the Yankee shells. All the hills are burrowed like a rabbit warren, for even a mile beyond the limits of the city. The pickets, too, had their subterranean shelters. Many a name is engraved at the entrance of these sub-soil residences, not in plate but in sand.

Nature has made Vicksburg a stronghold, and the rains from heaven seemed to have added their might in enhancing its normal strength. One can hardly see how an army was ever marched over these abrupt declivities. I venture the assertion that none but Americans could have forced the surrender of Vicksburg while held by Americans.


[Continued Next Week.]

Posted in Cotton, Mississippi, Reconstruction, U.S. Colored Troops, Vicksburg | Leave a comment