The Difficulty in Reconstructing Mississippi

Championhilz

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#1
The following is a letter written to provisional Governor William L. Sharkey of Mississippi immediately after the war by J.M.W. Wilson of Lexington, Mississippi. I think it illustrates quite well why Reconstruction of Mississippi (and other former Confederate states as well) was going to be so difficult. Many whites simply could not conceive of treating blacks in any way other than that of an inferior, with few (If any) rights. I have kept the spelling and punctuation just as Wilson wrote the letter:

Lexington, Miss., July 26, 1865
Hon. W.L. Sharkey
Dear Sir,
Allow me as an old acquaintance and friend to state some of the grievances inflicted upon us a down troden and degraded people by the Provost Marshal at this place. He is incouraging insubordination in the negros by fining or imprisoning every man who attempts to defend himself or his family against the insults, impudence or idleness of the negro. If a negros jaws are box[ed] for impudence, or idleness, all he or she has to do is to run to the Provost and make complaint and the man is arrested, put in jail or fined $50. He will not allow a refactory negro, sent off but requires the man to keep them under heavy penalty or carry them to him for punishment. In all such cases the negros tale has more weight with him than the whitemans.
Yesterday a man was fined $50 for taking hold of and shaking an impudent negro; a few days ago another was fined $50 for striking a negro; one blow for refusing to go to work when he told him. To day a lady is to suffer the indignity of being carried before him for cracking a negro on the head with a fork handle. These things are of daily occurance and the Provost is driving quite a thriving business in the way of fines.
Are these things ordered by the powers that be? If so, please let us know it, I believe we as a people are prepared to suffer or to do anything required of us but the iron rule of this Yankee Provost bears very heavily. Please enlighten us if you can as we believe it is a speculation on the part of the Provost, he tolerates a negro whose house right in the midst of town.
Any attention you may give this will much oblige your friend & humble servant,
J.M. Wilson

N.B., don’t subject me unnecessarily to this mans malevalence, though I am willing to take any responsible necessary in the premises and can make proof of what I herein state.
J.M.W.
(Series 771, Box 955, Folder 6, MDAH)

I believe this J.M.W. Wilson to be James McCreary Wilson, who was a wealthy farmer in Holmes County, Mississippi. In the 1860 U.S. Census for Holmes County, he listed real estate worth $4,400, and a personal estate worth $25,039.
 

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#4
The following is a letter written to provisional Governor William L. Sharkey of Mississippi immediately after the war by J.M.W. Wilson of Lexington, Mississippi. I think it illustrates quite well why Reconstruction of Mississippi (and other former Confederate states as well) was going to be so difficult. Many whites simply could not conceive of treating blacks in any way other than that of an inferior, with few (If any) rights. I have kept the spelling and punctuation just as Wilson wrote the letter:

Lexington, Miss., July 26, 1865
Hon. W.L. Sharkey
Dear Sir,
Allow me as an old acquaintance and friend to state some of the grievances inflicted upon us a down troden and degraded people by the Provost Marshal at this place. He is incouraging insubordination in the negros by fining or imprisoning every man who attempts to defend himself or his family against the insults, impudence or idleness of the negro. If a negros jaws are box[ed] for impudence, or idleness, all he or she has to do is to run to the Provost and make complaint and the man is arrested, put in jail or fined $50. He will not allow a refactory negro, sent off but requires the man to keep them under heavy penalty or carry them to him for punishment. In all such cases the negros tale has more weight with him than the whitemans.
Yesterday a man was fined $50 for taking hold of and shaking an impudent negro; a few days ago another was fined $50 for striking a negro; one blow for refusing to go to work when he told him. To day a lady is to suffer the indignity of being carried before him for cracking a negro on the head with a fork handle. These things are of daily occurance and the Provost is driving quite a thriving business in the way of fines.
Are these things ordered by the powers that be? If so, please let us know it, I believe we as a people are prepared to suffer or to do anything required of us but the iron rule of this Yankee Provost bears very heavily. Please enlighten us if you can as we believe it is a speculation on the part of the Provost, he tolerates a negro whose house right in the midst of town.
Any attention you may give this will much oblige your friend & humble servant,
J.M. Wilson

N.B., don’t subject me unnecessarily to this mans malevalence, though I am willing to take any responsible necessary in the premises and can make proof of what I herein state.
J.M.W.
(Series 771, Box 955, Folder 6, MDAH)

I believe this J.M.W. Wilson to be James McCreary Wilson, who was a wealthy farmer in Holmes County, Mississippi. In the 1860 U.S. Census for Holmes County, he listed real estate worth $4,400, and a personal estate worth $25,039.
The primary reason for the failure of Reconstruction is that neither the Federal or State movements of any Southern state were committed to fair and impartial law enforcement to protect the rights of all American citizens. Edited.
 
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#8
This my take... Directly after the war too much power was given to the Republicans/Freedman (the pendulum of power was all in their favor), while ex Confederates were disenfranchised. This lead to resentment and armed resistance from the ex Confederates.

Now perhaps if the North would of had the stomach to see this policy though then equal racial rights might have been achieved earlier, or we might of had a second Civil War/race war... one never knows with 'what ifs'.

In the end, Northers were willing to die to persevere the Union but were not willing to die to end racism and segregation. When they gave up power the pendulum of power shifted completely back to the ex Confederates/Democrats giving them unchecked power.

In a perfect world the North would have realized that the ex Confederates have a steak in this new South and would have included them at the table directly after the war. Perhaps given some but not uncheck power the Democrats and the Republicans would have worked together to achieved racial legal equality sooner.

Edited.
 

Ole Miss

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#9
Unfortunately, whites from all parts of the US denied blacks their rights. Jim Crow knew no state boundaries and existed in every nook and cranny.

Reconstruction was a disaster as shown in history when ideas were thrown against the wall to see what stuck. No one and I mean no one came out of this mess with honor and the blacks were cheated by all parties.

Edited.
Regards
David
 

Joshism

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#11
People today are aghast at the idea of doing away with the penny, even though it would simplify transactions and costs more than 1-cent to produce. That Reconstruction was a failure doesn't seem surprising by comparison:

1. Radically alters the social and economic fabric of Southern society.

2. Violates their "property rights"

3. Perceived as endangering their women.

4. Imposed by their victorious opposition.

5. Goes against "how it's always been."

How could Reconstruction produce a racially tolerant South?
 

matthew mckeon

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#12
The OP describes African Americans objecting being struck or beaten, and using legal means to redress those wrongs. The letter writer is both outraged and dumbfounded that legal recourse might apply to blacks as well as whites. He is not ready for a society where people have equal rights. And that is the problem with Reconstruction.
 

WJC

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#14
Reconstruction was a disaster
In my opinion Reconstruction itself was a successful experiment that not only rebuilt portions of our country devastated by rebellion but had huge, positive societal impact.
Lincoln's objective from the first was restoration of the Union. Through just terms an equitable peace was restored. The states which had been in rebellion drafted and adopted new constitutions and were readmitted to the Union.
Passage of the Freedmen's Bureau Act, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Civil Rights Act of 1875 succeeded in fulfilling the promise of emancipation. Qualified Blacks were elected to positions in every level of government and demonstrated their abilities were equal to those of Whites.
The Southern economy, infrastructure, food production and distribution and housing were all rebuilt. New industries were introduced. New schools and Colleges were built and there were improvements in education and literacy among all Southerners, Black and White.
The failures many attribute to Reconstruction were, in reality, successes of the Redemption. The social changes many had hoped would accompany military and political success never took hold. In spite of their solemn promises to President Hayes, former Rebels ruthlessly took back power and passed black codes, voter qualifications, and other legislation taking away the rights that Blacks had gained. Through the sharecropping system, former slaveholders reintroduced a form of their 'peculiar institution' and destroyed economic opportunity for Blacks.
Sadly the Supreme Court in its decisions in the Slaughterhouse Cases, the Civil Rights Cases, and United States v. Cruikshank effectively erased most of the civil rights gains Blacks achieved during Reconstruction.
We Americans need to put the blame for our post-Civil War civil rights failures where it belongs: not with the so-called 'Radical Republicans' and Reconstruction, but with the Southern Redeemers, a Supreme Court that simply 'got it wrong' and the failure the of successive, complacent Administrations and Congresses to act to uphold the principles of Lincoln and Reconstruction.
 
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#15
Unfortunately, whites from all parts of the US denied blacks their rights. Jim Crow knew no state boundaries and existed in every nook and cranny.

Reconstruction was a disaster as shown in history when ideas were thrown against the wall to see what stuck. No one and I mean no one came out of this mess with honor and the blacks were cheated by all parties.

Edited.
Regards
David
Edited; modern politics.

Black people could freely vite in many states long before they could in the South.
Leftyhunter
 
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#20
I see the bats are out tonight. What about the troops both black and white not to mention the carpetbaggers that committed atrocities on Southerner's who had no recourse. That was OK
Examples would be great. Also how would that explain the suppression of African American rights for a good one hundred years?
Leftyhunter
 



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