“Harmony, Friendship, and Mutual Confidence Would Have Taken the Place of the Bayonet”

HRR

Hiram Rhodes Revels was born in North Carolina and served as a chaplain in the A.M.E. Church in Baltimore before the War in 1861. After the War began, he helped organize two all black units for the United States Army and then settled in Mississippi at the War’s conclusion. The Republican controlled Mississippi legislature sent him to the United States Senate in 1870, making him the first African-American to serve in the United States Congress. After the conclusion of his term in 1871, he was appointed president of what is now Alcorn State University. Revels, however, grew disgusted with the corruption of the Republican regime in Mississippi and refused to support the carpetbag governor Adelbert Ames for re-election in 1874. Ames removed him from Alcorn, and Revels then wrote a stinging letter to President Grant outlining his opposition to the Republican Party in Mississippi. Generally, Revels believed that blacks in Mississippi had been used as political pawns to advance the career of several carpetbagers and scalawags, and he also railed against the disinformation circulating about Southern whites in the Northern press. Below is much of the text from that letter. After the Republicans lost control of the State in 1876, Revels was reappointed to Alcorn where he served as president until his death in 1882.

Since reconstruction, the masses of my people have been . . enslaved in mind by unprincipled adventurers, who, caring nothing for country, were willing to stoop to anything, no matter how infamous, to secure power to themselves and perpetuate it. My people are naturally republicans and always will be, but as they grow older in freedom so do they in wisdom. A great portion of them have learned that they were being used as mere tools, and, as in the late election, not being able to correct the existing evil among themselves, they determined, by casting their ballots against these unprincipled adventurers, to overthrow them; and now that they have succeeded in defeating these unprincipled adventurers, they are organizing for a republican victory in 1876; that we will be successful there cannot be a doubt. There are many good white republicans in the State who will unite with us, and who have aided us in establishing ourselves as a people. In almost every instance these men who have aided us have been cried down by the socalled republican officials in power in the State. My people have been told by these schemers when men were placed upon the ticket who were notoriously corrupt and dishonest, that they must vote for them; that the salvation of the party depended upon it; that the man who scratched a ticket was not a republican. This is only one of the many means these unprincipled demagogues have devised to perpetuate the intellectual bondage of my people. To defeat this policy at the late election men irrespective of race, color, or party affiliation united and voted together against men known to be incompetent and dishonest. I cannot recognize, nor do the masses of my people who read recognize, the majority of the officials who have been in power for the past two years as republicans. We do not believe that republicanism means corruption, theft, and embezzlement. These three offenses have been prevalent among a great portion of our office-holders; to them must be attributed the defeat of the republican party in the State if defeat there was; but I, with all the lights before me, look upon it as an uprising of the people, the whole people to crush out corrupt rings and men from power. Mississippi is to-day as much republican as it ever was, and in November, 1876, we will roll up a rousing majority for the republican candidate for President. . .

The great masses of the white people have abandoned their hostility to the General Government and republican principles, and to-day accept as a fact that all men are born free and equal, and I believe are ready to guarantee to my people every right and privilege guaranteed to an American citizen. The bitterness and hate created by the late civil strife has, in my opinion, been obliterated in this State, except, perhaps, in some localities, and would have long since been entirely obliterated were it not for some unprincipled men who would keep alive the bitterness of the past and inculcate a hatred between the races, in order that they may aggrandize themselves by office and its emoluments to control my people, the effect of which is to degrade them. As an evidence that party-lines in this State have been obliterated, men were supported without regard to their party affiliations, their birth, or their color by those who heretofore have acted with the democratic party, by this course giving an evidence of their sincerity that they have abandoned the political issues of the past, and were only desirous of inaugurating an honest State government and restoring a mutual confidence between the races. . . Had our State administration adhered to republican principles and stood by the platform upon which it was elected, the State to-day would have been on the highway of prosperity. Peace would have prevailed within her borders, and the republican party would have embraced within its folds thousands of the best and purest citizens of which Mississippi can boast, and the election just passed would have been a republican victory of not less than eighty to a hundred thousand majority; but the dishonest course which has been pursued has forced into silence and retirement nearly all of the leading republicans who organized and have heretofore led the party to victory. A few who have been bold enough to stand by republican principles and condemn dishonesty, corruption and incompetency, have been supported and elected by overwhelming majorities. If the State administration had adhered to republican principles, advanced patriotic measures, appointed only honest and competent men to office, and sought to restore confidence between the races, blood-shed would have been unknown, peace would have prevailed, Federal interference been unthought of; harmony, friendship, and mutual confidence would have taken the place of the bayonet.

In conclusion, let me say to you, and through you, to the great republican party of the North, that I deemed it my duty, in behalf of my people, that I present these facts in order that they and the white people (their former owners) should not suffer the misrepresentations which certain demagogues seemed desirous of encouraging.

About Brion McClanahan

Brion McClanahan is the author or co-author of six books, How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America (Regnery History, 2017), 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America and Four Who Tried to Save Her (Regnery History, 2016), The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers, (Regnery, 2009), The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution (Regnery History, 2012), Forgotten Conservatives in American History (Pelican, 2012), and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Real American Heroes, (Regnery, 2012). He received a B.A. in History from Salisbury University in 1997 and an M.A. in History from the University of South Carolina in 1999. He finished his Ph.D. in History at the University of South Carolina in 2006, and had the privilege of being Clyde Wilson’s last doctoral student. He lives in Alabama with his wife and three daughters. More from Brion McClanahan

You might also enjoy these articles...