The Political History of Virginia during the Reconstruction/7

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CHAPTER VII.


THE RESTORATION OF VIRGINIA.


While the constitutional convention was still in session, Governor Pierpont's administration came to an end. On April 4, 1867, General John Schofield issued an order removing him from the governorship and appointing in his place General Henry Horatio Wells.1 General Wells was a native of New York but had lived for many years in Michigan, whence he had come to Virginia in the early part of the Civil War. He served as provost-marshal of Alexandria.

The reason assigned for the removal of Pierpont was the expiration of his term of office. This does not seem plausible, however, in view of the fact that the government of Virginia was purely provisional, and that a new executive was appointed without regard to the constitution. In truth, Pierpont's influence, which had waned for a long time, was by this time entirely lost. Conservative newspapers charged that he was not sufficiently radical in his views to please the authorities, and this seems to have been the general opinion. Certainly Pierpont was not well identified with any party. His views were too conservative for him to lend hearty support to the more radical measures, although he upheld the necessity of acquiescing in negro suffrage and in the other privileges the freedmen had obtained. His compromising turn of mind led him to attempt to keep a certain balance which he would at times abandon under the force of circumstances. It must be remembered that his position was a singularly difficult one.2 He had been sharply criticized by the conservative press, but now that he was


[1] Richmond Enquirer, April 5, 1868.
[2] Enquirer, April 27, 1868, and August 13, 1867
.

The Restoration of Virginia. p.105

gone his former critics admitted his many good qualities and his material services to Virginia.3

The appointment of General Wells to the governorship gave a death-blow to Mr. Hunnicutt's aspirations. His power had weakened considerably during the session of the constitutional convention, in which he showed little proof of constructive statesmanship, but he was yet popular with the negroes. Hunnicutt and John Hawxhurst both announced themselves as candidates for governor, as soon as the time of election was fixed by the convention, and both began an active canvass among the freedmen.4 But it appeared that the rulers in Washington did not favor leaders whose influence was confined solely to the negro race. For the leadership of the Republican party in Virginia a man of greater consideration was needed; a man who might also gain influence with white voters. Partly for this reason Wells was elevated to the gubernatorial chair.5 Besides, a growing antagonism had sprung up between the native white Republicans or those of long residence in the State "scalawags"6 as they were vulgarly called and the adventuring carpet-baggers. The latter held the advantage, in that they were in possession of the Federal offices and also enjoyed more influence at Washington. The appointment of Wells was a decided victory for the carpet-baggers. They now gained a complete ascendancy in the Republican party and drew away the freedmen from Hunnicutt and their other old leaders.

Pierpont's removal marked the beginning of many official changes. A few days later John S. Calvert, the State treasurer, was dismissed on the charge of having retained State funds, and George Rye was appointed in his place.7 The superintendent of the State prison was also removed, and on May 8, Joseph Mayo, the mayor of Richmond,


[3] Enquirer, April 6, 1868.
[4] Enquirer, March 24 and 27, 1868.
[5] New Nation, April 14, 1868.

[6] Scalawag is said to be a term applied to the scaly, scabby runts in a herd of cattle. See also Enquirer, October 7, 1868.

[7] Appleton's Annual Cyclopaedia, 1868, p. 761.

p.106 The Political Reconstruction of Virginia.

gave away to George Chahoon, the military appointee. On May 15, General Schofield wrote to General Grant that the number of State officers who could not retain their offices under the provisions of the "test-oath" would amount to several thousand and that only a small portion of the vacancies so created could be filled.8

General Schofield was himself removed from command of the district on June 1. General Stoneman succeeded. Schofield had filled a hard and difficult position to the satisfaction of a majority of the fair-minded people of Viginia. As a military administrator he had used his great powers with discretion and had not interfered much further in the affairs of the State than his orders directed. The military rule under Stoneman became more oppressive. This was partly due to the latter's more stringent orders. Congress, on February 6, 1869, passed a joint resolution directing the removal from office of all persons who were unable to take the "test-oath" of the act of July 2, 1862. Stoneman published the law on March 15. He reported on March 21 that there were 5,446 offices in the state, of which 532 had been filled by General Schofield and 1,972 by himself.9 Only 329 of the incumbents could take the "test-oath" and 2,613 vacancies still existed. Great difficulty was experienced in finding competent men to fill public positions; in fact, the functions of local government were suspended in many parts of Virginia. Stoneman in turn lost his command on March 5 and General Canby was appointed his successor. He assumed control on April 20, remaining as commander of the district until the end of Virginia reconstruction.

The rival parties began to prepare for the coming election shortly after the close of the constitutional convention. The conservative State committee, on April 17, 1868, issued a call for a convention, to be held at Richmond on May 7. It should include the superintendents of counties


[8] Appleton's Annual Cyclopaedia, 1868, p. 761.
[9] Appleton's Annual Cyclopaedia, 1869, p. 710.

The Restoration of Virginia. p.107

and cities, and the resident and consulting members of the State committee.10

The Republican State convention met at Richmond on May 6. There was a full attendance of delegates, every county sending a quota. Representation was about equally divided between the races. James H. Clements was elected president. General Wells, supported by the military power, received the nomination for governor. One hundred and fifty-three votes were cast for him; forty-five for Hawxhurst; eleven for Hunnicutt, and six for Pierpont. It will be seen how greatly Hunnicutt's influence had declined. Clements was nominated for the lieutenant-governorship.11

The conservative convention assembled the next day with eighty-four delegates present. Colonel R. E. Withers was nominated for governor, General James Walker for lieutenant-governor and John L. Marye, Jr., for attorney-general.12

The radicals now wished to make arrangements for the election. In June, Governor Wells and Judge H. G. Bond, one of his chief supporters, went to Washington and requested the reconstruction committee to provide for an immediate election in Virginia with an appropriation of money to pay expenses. They desired especially that the election might be held upon the existing registration.13

There was so general a feeling of hostility to the new constitution among the white people that a fresh registration would doubtless have brought out a full vote against its adoption. The House of Representatives passed a bill which fixed the date of the Virginia election as August 13, 14, 15, 1868. Wells objected to the bill on the ground that it re-opened registration and it was feared that many persons would attempt to register under the amnesty proclamation."


[10] Enquirer, April 18, 1868.

[11] Enquirer and Whig, May 7, 1868.

[12] Fredericksburg News, November 9, 1868. Nominations for Congress and for other offices were made at the same time. Carpet-baggers were generally selected by the Republicans, only one of their eight Congressional nominees being a Virginian.
[13] Fredericksburg News, July 16, 1868.

p.108 The Political Reconstruction of Virginia.

tion.14He accordingly went again to Washington and urged his views upon the reconstruction committee. These were so partisan that Mr. Beck of Kentucky attacked him in the House of Representatives; and largely through Beck's influence Congress gave no immediate response to his demands. The election remained suspended, therefore, through the whole year 1868.

In the first part of December the Republican State central committee of Virginia met in Richmond to consider the question of registration. Finally it was decided to ask Congress to continue the Freedmen's Bureau in the unreconstructed States, until they should be admitted to the rights of statehood, and to order an election on the constitution at the earliest possible day.

The committee also resolved to submit the whole of the constitution without exception to the voters, and a petition asking such action on the part. of Congress was prepared and signed by many leading Republicans of the State, including Governor Wells, Judge Underwood, John Minor Botts, Mayor Chahoon of Richmond, Mayor Burgess of Petersburg, General Williams C. Wickham, General Mulford, Franklin Stearns and others.15

The summer and fall months of 1868 wore on without any great political events in Virginia. Radical orators continued the campaign among the negroes and the latter were more hopeful and aspiring than ever. It was the golden age


[14] Congressional Globe, July 24, 1868, p. 4416 : Beck's speech, "The real object of men who manipulated and projected this bill is to put all power into the hands of a few ultra radical leaders in that convention, and to deprive of the rights of suffrage twenty-five thousand white men in that State. The present provisional governor of Virginia, General Wells, came before the reconstruction committee and said . . . that in the first place he wanted a liberal appropriation to carry on the election. He wanted no further registration because, .as he said, there were to-day twenty-five thousand white men in the State of Virginia, who under the present reconstruction laws, are entitled to be registered and vote, and if registered they would carry the State against the Republican party."

[15] Washington Star, quoted by Fredericksburg News, December 7, 1868.

The Restoration of Virginia. p.109

of the colored race politically.16 Meanwhile the whites had not emerged from their former apathy. The newspapers counselled the people to maintain an attitude of passive resistance, of stoical resignation. Many hoped that the Republican party might be defeated in the national election and the South thereby be saved. The Richmond Whig almost alone urged the acceptance of negro suffrage as inevitable, but its voice did not carry persuasion.17 Yet this attitude was full of danger. The fall election resulted in a great Republican victory. General Grant was elected President and a large Republican majority was returned in the House of Representatives. Negro suffrage had, therefore, become an assured fact. The people opposed it as obstinately as ever, but a few thoughtful men in the conservative ranks realized the hopelessness of continuing the struggle against a sentiment that had grown into a sort of faith. There was also a danger that the Underwood constitution might be passed and the disfranchisement of a large class of citizens become a settled condition.

The Virginia constitution was brought up for the consideration of Congress early in the session, without opposition from the State. An effort was made to induce the conservative committees in Richmond to protest against the passage of an act approving the constitution, but they refused to stir in the matter.18 The House of Representatives, on December 8, 1868, passed a bill which provided for an election on the Underwood constitution on the fourth Thursday in May, 1869.19 The bill was then referred to the Senate, but before it could be acted upon Congress adjourned for the Christmas recess.

In this crisis Alexander H. H. Stuart came to the front. He had long enjoyed a high reputation in state and national affairs, having held the position of a Cabinet minister under


[16] Fredericksburg News, April 2, 1868.
[17] Whig, November 14, 1868.
[18] A. H. H. Stuart's "Restoration of Virginia," p. 18.
[19] Congressional Globe, 1868-9, p. 37.