The Problems of Reconstruction

Shortly after assuming office in April 1865, President Andrew Johnson began his own reconstruction policy instead of waiting to consult with Congress when it reconvened in December. Johnson’s terms for allowing the Southern states to return to the Union were lenient. He asked that the Southern states accept the abolition of slavery, disavow secession, and cancel the debts incurred in aid of the Confederate cause; these requirements left such questions as education for blacks, social relationships, and civil and political rights to the individual states. By the end of May he had recognized Virginia’s government and outlined a plan for restoring North Carolina. During the next six weeks, the President appointed governors for the states of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas, and all turned to the task of establishing governments. Meanwhile, Johnson pardoned numerous Confederates who, understandably enough, took advantage of his generosity to restore as much local control as possible. Encouraged by Johnson’s permissive attitude, the politicians who dominated the Johnson governments instituted the Black Codes, a series of laws designed to keep African Americans in a state of economic subordination without education or civil and political rights.[1]

When Congress convened in December, the Radical and moderate Republicans united to prevent the seating of senators and representatives from the former Confederate states. The following February, Congress agreed that no Congressmen from the Southern states could be seated in either house until Congress had declared that the state in question qualified for representation. In addition to revulsion at the South’s treatment of the freedmen, the members of Congress feared what Southern states might do when they gained the approximately fifteen additional representatives to which they would become entitled upon reapportionment after the 1870 Census.[2]

The status of the Southern states caused conflict between Congress and the President, but the primary issue was the position of free blacks in American society. Despite the defeat of the South, simply freeing African Americans failed to give them either real freedom or equality. Because the Radical Republicans championed the black cause, their opponents accused them of attempting to secure the black vote for the Republican Party. The obvious risk of losing Northern white votes points to other motives for what might almost be termed a suicidal political policy. In 1865, for example, Connecticut voters turned down a statute allowing blacks to vote; in 1866 voters in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Colorado defeated similar measures. Owing to their feelings about African Americans, white men in the North and the South held many doubts about blacks’ ability to join the American electorate. The small group of Radical Republicans who struggled to obtain political and civil rights for blacks based their efforts on the same commitment and the kind of idealism that had fired the abolitionists. They argued that if all men are equal in the eyes of God, then it was morally wrong to deny African Americans the rights that white men enjoyed. From these beliefs, and in the face of considerable resistance from the state governments and the American people, came the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.[3]

The Political Situation in California

The people and politicians of California joined the national debate on Reconstruction and the status of the freedmen. Since 1858 and the Kansas-Lecompton question, Californians had been deeply involved in national events; for the next few years, newspapers, political speeches, party platforms, legislative resolutions, and governors’ messages all indicated concern over the vital issues facing the country. The Civil War changed the pattern of Democratic domination in California, and that party’s hold on the state dwindled. Throughout the Civil War, some California Democrats refused to join the Republicans in the Union Party; this group fused with the Breckinridge or Peace Democrats in 1863 and together they tentatively launched the reconstructed Democratic Party. The old pro-South group from ante-bellum days, with their taint of treason, dominated the newborn Democrats, just as the Republicans had been the major force in the Union Party. But in the Union Party’s disparate membership and its influential Douglas Democrats, an astute Democrat could see hopes for his party’s eventual triumph at the polls.[4]

The Union Party contained a wide range of political opinions. There were pro-slavery Whigs and Democrats, anti-slavery and anti-secession Democrats, and moderate and Radical Republicans—all united by a desire to save the Union. The largest elements in the party were the Republicans and the Douglas (anti-secession) Democrats. Shortly after the end of the war, the Union Party divided over the issues of Reconstruction just as Congress and President Johnson did. Although the split was not exactly according to the old party lines, the majority of those men who had been Republicans and anti-slavery before the war remained Republicans after the war. Men with doubts about abolition and black suffrage joined the reorganized Democracy, or “the Democracy without slavery but with every desire to hinder and thwart the administration in its efforts at reconstruction of the Union.”[5]

As early as June 1865, the San Francisco Daily Examiner predicted that the Union Party had “run its course.” The paper said:
Its elements were, at best, an incongruous mixture. Old line Whigs, piebald ‘Native Americans,’--cast offs from the Democratic party, and men who were Democrats only to share the official plunder—Abolitionists, Free Lovers, and the rag-tag and bobtail of the entire fanatical tribe of New England made up the aggregate of that mass styled Republicans, who upon a specious hobby [African Americans], rode triumphantly into office.

Nevertheless, in September 1863, Unionist Frederick F. Low had won a four-year term
for governor with 64, 283 votes to Democrat John Downey’s 44,622 votes. The Democratic platform denounced Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and objected to the government’s “open and avowed disregard of state rights,” but Californians were not yet ready to swing whole-heartedly to the Democrats. In 1864 they re-elected Lincoln by giving him 62,000 votes as opposed to 44,000 for George B. McClellan, and sent three Union Congressmen to Washington.[6]

In his first biennial message of December 4, 1865, Low recommended to the legislature passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. Congress passed the amendment and sent it to the state legislatures on January 31, 1865; ratification was completed in December 1865. Sixty-six members of the California Assembly approved the amendment on December 7, 1865, but eleven members voted against the measure. On December 15, 1865, the full Senate voted for it with 34 affirmative votes to four no votes. In the same message, Low reviewed President Johnson’s reconstruction policies, saying:

If the reports from some of these [Southern] states is true, that they have elected bitter and unrelenting enemies of the Government to some of the highest offices of trust and power— . . . it would seem that a season of probation, under a just and humane military rule, would be likely to improve the quality of loyalty existing in those districts.

Low also suggested that if the Southern states wanted to hasten their return to the Union, they could use the votes of blacks, which “if added to the present loyal minority, would establish those states on a firm foundation” Twelve years later, Low told historian Hubert Howe Bancroft, “We gave the negroes in the South the rights of citizenship simply to protect them. There was no other way, as was thought by the wise.”[7]

The Union Party Split

Ironically enough, Governor Low became one of the immediate causes of the split in the Union Party. For many years in California a few professional politicians had named the candidates for all offices. The Union Party inherited this custom from the Democrats and used it during their years of dominance. California’s primary system favored “bossism” by making it possible for an ambitious politician to secure the nomination of his choice “by the use of money and by voting the same men several times over.” Such a politician was United States Senator John Conness, a former Douglas Democrat, who had succeeded in having Low nominated and elected governor in place of Leland Stanford. In 1865 he planned to have Low elected United States senator to replace Douglas Democrat James A. McDougall, whose term would expire on March 3, 1867. With this aim in mind, Conness supporters in the legislature of 1863-64 introduced a bill to gerrymander San Francisco to insure the election of Conness men to the legislature of 1865-66, which would elect a new senator. His political opponents accused Conness of giving control of San Francisco to the “boys,” or “Short-hairs,” former Democrats, who now that the Union was saved, “eagerly returned to the pursuit of politics as a trade.” Union-Republicans who opposed Conness were called “Long-hairs,” and were led by John Bidwell and Cornelius Cole.[8]

Although Low had been an active Republican since 1861, considerable opposition to his candidacy, and especially to his sponsor, developed. In some counties both Long-hairs and Short-hairs bolted conventions that nominated opposition candidates. The Sacramento Daily Union commented:

In every county of the state where regular nominations have been made by Union Conventions, and the nominees have been anti-Low, the friends of that senatorial aspirant, when they have bolted, have sought affiliation with copperheads, and thus endeavored to destroy the integrity of the Union organization, and give aid and comfort to the enemy.

In August 1865, Low withdrew from the senatorial contest, saying that charges that he had caused the Union Party split prompted his decision. Former congressman Cornelius Cole replaced him as Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate and served from March 1867 to March 1873. Low’s withdrawal failed to reunite the party, however, because there was another even more divisive issue splitting the Unionists.[9]

The Election of 1865

African American suffrage was the principal issue in the 1865 California election. The Long-hairs and the Short-hairs disagreed on this important subject. The Short-hairs opposed extending the vote to blacks and their views corresponded with those of the Democrats whose firmest plank was:

That upon every ground of justice and policy to the white people of the country, as well as humanity to the negroes themselves, the democratic party is inflexibly opposed to negro suffrage, and its inevitable conse- quence: the political and social equality of the negro in every form, . . .

Democrats also opposed what they called “The unnatural and revolutionary scheme for thrusting universal suffrage, by action of congress, upon the negroes of the southern states.”[10]

Much to the disgust of the San Francisco Elevator, the Long-hairs of the Union Party tried to avoid taking a stand on black suffrage, and the party’s platform omitted the subject. “Not a word is uttered in reference to negro suffrage, the great political problem of the day,” the newspaper said, “on the solution of which depends the stability of reconstruction, and perhaps, permanency of the Union.” The Union Party convention’s choice of Silas W. Sanderson, whom the Elevator called “a known and avowed secessionist,” for supreme court justice, prompted the paper to say, “The Union party of this State has completely stultified itself-- . . .” In a statement reflecting the party’s attitude, the Butte County Union convention said: “. . . the question of ‘negro suffrage,’. . . is one which belongs in the non-seceding states, exclusively to the states themselves, and as yet in this state is not an issue to be presented to the people for their action.”
Despite the obvious reluctance of the party on this issue, the Democrats loudly accused the Unionists of being favorable to black suffrage. “Quiet as they keep on the question,” the Examiner wrote, “it is the secret determination of the Black Republican party to elevate the negro to the status of the poor white man, and to enact such naturalization laws as will limit the extension of our Irish voting population.” Furthermore, the newspaper charged, “the Abolition party [knows] that a mortal antipathy exists between the white-skinned, pure blooded Hibernian, and the sooty sons of Afric’s burning clime.” The paper asserted that the Irish were Democrats “almost to a man” and that the Republicans “would be willing to invest the monkey tribe with the rights of freemen, if, . . . they could be certain of obtaining political strength to overcome the Irish Democratic vote of the country.” Attempting to rebut Democratic charges, the Stockton Independent insisted, “There is not a corporal’s guard of the Union party of this State in favor of negro suffrage, and not a white man in all the state in favor of ‘social equality’ with that race.”[11]

On July 15, 1865, however, John Conness had told a Placerville audience, “There are a great many of our people, and very good people, too, who think the vote of a loyal black man carries in it and with it more security than the vote of a white rebel. I think they are right.” But just a month later, fellow Union-Republican Frank Pixley took another tack in a speech before the Mechanics’ Institute in San Francisco. While willing to see African Americans’ labor, freedom, family ties, and education protected, Pixley drew the line at social equality. Pixley said he thought the white race was superior: “. . . but whether it is or not, because it is mine, I would have it contain all the political power; I would not invest the negro with the privilege of the elective franchise. I would not . . . enable him to hold office or in any way to seek to establish with him relations of social equality.
Earlier in the year the Elevator had called social equality “a bug-bear, a hideous phantom raised . . . to frighten the people from their duty.” “We shall strive for ‘Equality before the law,’” the paper asserted, “and let our social relations arrange themselves.”[12]

The cooperation of the Union Short-hairs with the Democrats in opposing black suffrage indicated trouble for the divided Union-Republicans. And in 1865 the Democrats scored some immediate gains in their climb back to political power. Although the Union Long-hairs remained in control of both houses of the legislature, the fusionists took Sacramento, Amador, Yolo, Sonoma, and Stanislaus counties and achieved some success in San Francisco. Plumas, Colusa, Mendocino, Siskiyou, Los Angeles, and San Diego counties also elected Democrats to the legislature. Equally encouraging to the Democrats, and more significant, was the permanence of the Union rift, a rift that became more pronounced with time.[13]

California and Congressional Reconstruction

Although the Democrats were a minority in the legislature of 1865-66, they were not a silent minority. They expressed their views on universal suffrage, social equality, reconstruction, and other issues in a series of resolutions presented to the legislature. The Unionists tabled most of these resolutions or sent them to the Committee on Federal Relations; the volume became so heavy that on December 19, 1867, the Assembly adopted a resolution referring all motions and resolutions on reconstruction and suffrage to the Committee on Federal Relations. In the meantime, the Democrats continued to express their party’s philosophy and stands. In contrast, the Union Party spokesmen sounded more cautious about the important issues of the day, perhaps because their national leaders also found themselves in a tentative period. But soon after the legislature convened, a number of Democratic legislators introduced resolutions in their respective houses. Democratic Senator George Pearce’s resolution praised President Johnson’s efforts to restore Southern “social relations and governments”; Assemblyman William Holden, who had voted against the Thirteenth Amendment, asked among other things, that California’s Congressmen be requested to oppose and vote against any measure that would confer suffrage on blacks in the District of Columbia. Also in the Assembly, Samuel L. Lupton resolved “That we heartily endorse the pardoning power conferred upon the chief executive of the United States as exercised by President Andrew Johnson toward the erring people of the southern states.” Senator John S. Hager’s resolution stated, “That we endorse and concur in the views entertained by the president, . . . that under the federal constitution all questions relating to an extension of the elective franchise to the freedmen of the south should be referred to the several states and determined and regulated exclusively by them-- . . . [14]

In January 1866 the Sacramento Daily Union, a self-styled independent newspaper, explained that the universal suffrage question was “the material issue” between President Johnson and the Congress. The Radical Republicans were just entering a period of extended battle with the President that ended with their triumph at the polls in the fall of 1866 and the attempted impeachment in the spring of 1868. The pressing question was still how best to protect the freedmen in the South. The Radical Republicans believed suffrage was the answer, but bringing the North to this view would not be easy. At this time, the Union favored a constitutional amendment that used the whole population of a state as the basis for representation—in states where men were excluded from voting on the basis of color they would not be counted for representation purposes.[15]

Another cause of contention between Johnson and the Republicans was the Freedmen’s Bureau. In March 1865, Congress created the bureau to protect Southern blacks and to help organize the Southern labor market. The bureau, “an attempt to establish a government guardianship over the negroes and assure their economic and civil rights,” also provided relief to destitute Southern whites. In February 1866, the President vetoed a bill to extend the bureau for another year on the grounds that the bureau was too costly, created too much patronage, and was unconstitutional. Congress sustained Johnson’s veto on February 21, and the Radicals realized their struggle with him would be a bitter one. The presidential veto raised Johnson’s stock with Democrats all over the country; in California Democrats hailed his action with torchlight parades, speeches, and the firing of salutes. The Union commented, “So far as the freedmen were concerned, it was comparatively easy to withdraw them from Johnson’s regard; he was a ‘poor white’ himself, and the inveterate prejudice of his class against the race, though smothered during the war, was quickly rekindled.” “As we feared,” the Elevator said, “President Johnson has vetoed the Freedmen’s Bureau bill, thus leaving not only the colored people, but all Unionists and Northern men, whether white or colored, to the tender mercies of non-repentant rebels, exasperated by defeat and raging for revenge.”[16]

In an effort to build their party’s support and guarantee legal rights for the freed slaves, the Republicans next created the Civil Rights Act. This act attempted to settle the question of African American citizenship. The Act declared that “all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed,” are citizens of the United States. The act also said that citizens of “every race and color” were to have equal rights in all states to make contracts, to sue, to testify in court, and to buy and sell real or personal property. In addition, all citizens were to have “full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property,” and to be subjected to “like punishments, pains and penalties, and to no other.” The act gave the Executive Department and the federal courts ample power to carry out is provisions. But Johnson vetoed this act on March 27, 1866, only to have Congress override his veto two weeks later. Armed with this victory, the Republicans revived the Freedmen’s Bureau bill and in July 1866 passed this measure over the President’s ever ready veto.[17]

The San Francisco Examiner labeled the Civil Rights Act “an infamous, blasphemous and beastly attempt to break down the barriers which God Almighty has erected, and to mongrelize, debase, and degrade distinct natural species, which in His wisdom, he has made separate.” The Union objected to Johnson’s attempt to “excite prejudice” on the Pacific Coast by saying the Civil Rights Act would make citizens of the Chinese. “The veto message, the newspaper said, “teems with caste prejudice, and gives further evidence of the fact that we have now a President who is as anxious for the conservation of his Caucasian dignity as Jeff. Davis himself.” The Union pointed out that the number of Chinese born in the United States was limited, and in a later editorial praised the Chinese as industrious and ingenious. “The simple solution of the terrible Mongolian problem,” the paper said, “is to turn to all possible account the cheap labor thus placed at our command, to guarantee the laborers the protection of just and equal laws, to abate prejudice and to try to convert them to Christianity.” Chinese suffrage and citizenship, which would prove such valuable issues for the Democrats in 1867, were already becoming more prominent.[18]

The Suffrage Question

In California debate over black franchise rights continued unchecked. In May 1865 black leader John J. Moore had listed ten reasons for black voting rights. One of the reasons he cited was “Because political suffrage is the only means by which men can defend their personal, civil, and religious liberties, . . .” Moore also asserted, “The Negro American must have the right of suffrage to arm him with the means of self-defense against the ignorance and prejudice of foreign immigration that sets itself in array against the American negro, as soon as he lands upon our shores, particularly the ignorant and disloyal Irish.” Moore asked, too, why whites never questioned the right of ignorant white men to vote.[19]

In February 1866, United States Senator-elect Cornelius Cole told a Union Party meeting that Americans must live up to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence. Cole stressed that to preserve “our standing among the nations we must mete out justice to the Africans as well as to all other races of men. . . . A poor satisfaction indeed it would be to feel that one’s own race is great only in contrast, and poorer still to know that it has attained superiority by mounting over the ruins of feebler races.” Cole added that if anything could be done to atone for oppressing the “benighted bondsmen of the South,” it should “be cheerfully done.” He thought, too, that “if it should be necessary to confer upon him the elector’s privilege, even that should be done, and not grudgingly.”[20]

Democrat Thomas J. Henley, however, speaking at a meeting to endorse Johnson’s policies, recommended welcoming the Southern states as the Prodigal Son had been welcomed and declared:

We must now have equality, fraternity and brotherly love; and when I speak of equality and fraternity, I wish it distinctly understood that I mean for the white men. I mean the Anglo-Saxon, the Norman, and the Celt—the Caucasian wherever he is to be found. I expressly exclude the Mongolian, the African and the Kanaka [Hawaiians], the inhabitants of the South Sea Islands, and the cannibals of New Zealand.

Later in March 1866, Editor B.F. Washington of the Examiner complained, “it is hard to argue with men who will contend for the equality of races,” because it shows a “morbid condition of mind utterly inconsistent with healthy discussion.” The newspaper explained that “Man’s mission—his upon whose forehead the seal of universal empire has been stamped—the Caucasian man’s mission, is to subdue the earth, bend it to his use and make it subservient to the highest civilization. In this all things should be made to contribute.” Washington contended that in slavery “the Negro has made his only advance in civilization. . . . We are prepared to say . . . that negro slavery . . . was a blessing.”[21]

Perhaps in response to the rhetoric of white supremacy, resistance to black suffrage hardened in California. The legislature ignored the petition and proposed amendment to the California Constitution suggested by the Colored Convention of 1865. In 1866 the committee in charge of San Francisco’s Fourth of July celebration refused blacks permission to join the Independence Day festivities, although they had been welcome the year before. At least one San Francisco newspaper, the Evening Tribune, criticized the decision to exclude African Americans, calling it a “gross outrage on common decency.” The paper said, “To allow loyal negroes to celebrate Independence day does not touch the question of social or political equality of the races. . . .Let all American citizens be allowed to celebrate.” But rights of citizenship may have been just what San Franciscans wanted to reject because of their implications with regard to suffrage. In a revealing editorial written just before the Fourth, the Examiner exulted that the Civil Rights bill had “given the negro no solitary right he had not before. The ban of social prescription is still upon him. He is denied access to our theatres, hotels, and churches, except on humiliating terms. He cannot sit upon our juries or occupy our offices. He is, in short, socially and politically, a proscribed individual.”[22]

The Fourteenth Amendment

Well aware that blacks’ rights were still in jeopardy and concerned about the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act, Congress next moved to put the substance of that bill into an amendment to the Constitution. What was needed the Radical Republicans thought, was an ironclad guarantee of the freedmen’s rights. Nevertheless, the Radicals still lacked the confidence to state unequivocally that African Americans now possessed the vote. As a result the amendment was a compromise between the moderates and the radicals that satisfied very few; still, its phrases were ambiguous enough that each group was able to interpret the amendment to suit itself. The first section defined citizenship: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” This section also said: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The second section said that any state that denied suffrage to any of its adult male citizens would have its representation in Congress proportionally reduced. The third section was an attempt to nullify the President’s pardoning power by disqualifying from state or federal office anyone who had sworn to uphold the Constitution and then engaged in rebellion.[23]

The third section reflected the Radicals’ fear that the Southern plantation owners would regain complete political power in the South. The Radicals thought the Southern states had to be restored to the Union in a way that avoided nullifying the North’s victory. Recognition of the Johnson governments was not the answer because they were led by men opposed to the Republicans who already had made tentative moves toward Democrats in the North. If they were readmitted, the Southerners might attempt to end the Freedmen’s Bureau, restore slavery, repudiate the Federal war debt, or even assume the debts of the Confederacy. The Radicals relied on black suffrage as one solution to these problems.[24]

The Fourteenth Amendment disappointed Radicals like Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens. Stevens called it a “shilly-shally bungling thing,” and abolitionist Wendell Phillips described it as a “fatal and total surrender.” During the debates on the amendment in Congress, Union-Republican William Higby raised the issue of Chinese citizenship, saying, “The Chinese are nothing but a pagan race. . . . You cannot make good citizens of them.” Higby, who was from Calaveras, California, faulted the Chinese on the grounds of religion, customs, and morals, charging, “They buy and sell their women like cattle, and the trade is mostly for prostitution.” But the Stockton Independent declared, “The case presented is: whether the black man shall have the ballot at the south, or the rebels shall rule the politics and destiny of the country, with a fair prospect of ultimately ruling in the councils of the Nation. If the former prevails, the Union cause is as safe in South Carolina as in Massachusetts.” Even the Radicals hesitated to enforce black suffrage only in the South, however, and they were not yet confident enough to propose it for the country at large.[25]

The Congressional Committee on Reconstruction had recommended that no state be readmitted to the Union before ratifying the Fourteenth Amendment. But by the end of 1866, Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Alabama had all rejected the measure. Equally encouraged by President Johnson’s attitude toward the amendment, in early 1867 Virginia, Louisiana, and Mississippi also refused to ratify. In California Governor Frederick F. Low considered calling a special session of the legislature to ratify the amendment because the next session would not convene until after the election of September 1867. Low may have anticipated a Democratic victory, but he decided not to call the special session. In his final message as governor, Low recommended passage of the amendment. The Republican Senate recommended ratification in a resolution, but another resolution in the California Assembly rejected the measure; both resolutions died in committee. As a result, the legislature never acted on the amendment and it was not until May 6, 1959, that California finally ratified the Fourteenth Amendment.[26]

The Fourteenth Amendment and Johnson’s attitude toward it became major issues in the Congressional elections of 1866. In late August and early September the president made a politically disastrous speaking tour as far west as Chicago. The issues between him and Congress in this particularly bitter campaign were thoroughly aired. Johnson continuously attacked Congress, the Civil Rights Act, and the Fourteenth Amendment. He engaged in angry exchanges with hecklers, and as a result of the tour lost substantial support. In California the San Francisco Morning Call, a moderate Union paper, commented that Thaddeus Stevens’ policy was “on trial before the people,” and although the Congressmen elected in the Eastern states would not take their seats until December 1867, “Yet the Fall elections will probably control the action of the next session of Congress.” In September 1866, the Call lamented, “If the Radicals are successful, the present uncertain condition of the country will be maintained indefinitely; we shall have negro suffrage everywhere, and perhaps something worse.” Earlier in the year, the Elevator had chided the Call for its attitude towards black suffrage and its fear of Chinese voters. “The rulers of this State have encouraged Chinese immigration until they have flooded the country with idolators [sic]” the Elevator wrote, “and why deprive them of the rights which are accorded to other foreigners?” The Elevator doubted that the Chinese would change their citizenship, however, because “They are too fond of the customs and institutions of their own celestial kingdom; . . .” But as the Call’s attitude showed, in California the Democrats would not be alone in their opposition to African American suffrage with its implications for Chinese voting rights.[27]

By September 1866, Northern voters feared that President Johnson was losing the peace, and they were ready to let the Republicans control Reconstruction. The elections gave the party the required voter support—the Republicans took control of every northern state legislature, won every northern gubernatorial contest, and gained more than two-thirds majorities in both houses of Congress. The Call observed:

The result of the elections which have already been held in the Eastern States proves conclusively that the great mass of the people of the Northern States are decidedly in favor of what is popularly considered to be the congressional plan of reconstruction. . . . Though the people have decided in favor of the amendment plan, they have not yet decided in favor of the plans of the ultra-Radicals, yet their votes have greatly strengthened the Radicals morally and increased the influence of Thad. Stevens and Co.

The Call prophesied that the Radicals would take charge of reconstruction and that black suffrage would be “enforced at the point of the bayonet, even if worse evils do not befall the country.”[28]

The Radicals assumed a mandate even if they did not have one. The Republicans passed an act giving the vote to blacks in the District of Columbia. They created a series of Reconstruction Acts, all vetoed by Johnson and passed again, which set up military governments in the South. These governments required suffrage for African Americans. Finally, after Ulysses S. Grant’s election in 1868, and in the face of continuing Northern opposition, the Republicans hammered out the Fifteenth Amendment. In California Democrats as well as moderate Republicans opposed the Radical program. Democratic legislators again voiced their displeasure through resolutions. For example, on December 16, 1867, Assemblyman John M. James introduced a resolution to direct California’s Congressional representatives “to use their exertions . . . to restore the ten southern states, . . . to the same and equal constitutional rights with all the other states.” Democratic Senator A. H. Rose proposed a resolution saying:

. . . the people of California are irreconciliably [sic] opposed to conferring the elective franchise upon negroes or Chinese; that Congress has no constitutional power to regulate the elective franchise in the Southern states, . . . and “that any attempt to make such a regulation by congress is a usurpation of power against which this legislature . . . doth solemnly protest.[29]

Black suffrage was the main issue of the 1865 election in California, an election that began the serious breakup of the Union Party. In 1867, however, the emphasis shifted to Chinese naturalization and voting rights. A growing realization of the implications of the Radical program created a kind of mass panic that gave the Democrats a sweeping victory at the polls.

Notes: Chapter IV

[1] Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1984), 193. Kenneth M. Stampp, The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1867 (New York: Vintage Books, 1965), 61-62, 72-73, 77, 79-80; John Hope Franklin, Reconstruction: After the Civil War (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1961), 26-27, 29-31.
[2] Stampp, Reconstruction, 110; James G. Randall and David Donald, The Civil War and Reconstruction (2d. ed., rev., Lexington, Mass.: Heath, 1969), 580.
[3] Stampp, Reconstruction, 12, 87, 105; Ray H. Abrams, “Copperhead Newspapers and the Negro,” Journal of Negro History, 20 (April 1935), 152; Leslie H. Fishel, Jr., “Northern Prejudice and Negro Suffrage, 1865-1870,” Journal of Negro History, 39 (January 1954), 11; Forrest G. Wood, Black Scare: The Racist Response to Emancipation and Reconstruction (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968), 82, 92; For a fuller discussion and interpretation of Republican motives see Lawanda and John Cox, “Negro Suffrage and Republican Politics; The Problem of Motivation in Reconstruction Historiography,” Journal of Southern History, 33 (August 1967), 303-330. The Coxes wrote, “In challenge to the dominant interpretation from Braxton through Gillette, we should like to suggest that Republican party leadership played a crucial role in committing this nation to equal suffrage for the Negro not because of political expediency but despite political risk. An incontestable fact of Reconstruction history suggests this view. Racial prejudice was so strong in the North that the issue of equal Negro suffrage constituted a clear and present danger to Republicans. White backlash might be a recently coined phrase, but it was a virulent political phenomenon in the 1860s. The exploitation of prejudice by the Democratic opposition was blatant and unrestrained.” See p. 317.
[4] Ralph J. Roske, Everyman’s Eden; A History of California (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1968), 317-319; San Francisco Daily Alta California, July 29, 1865, p. 2, col. 2; Winfield J. Davis, History of Political Conventions in California, 1849-1892, (Sacramento: Publications of the California State Library, No. 1, 1893), 196-97.
[5] Roske, Everyman’s Eden, 374; Theodore Henry Hittell, History of California (4 vols. San Francisco: N.J. Stone, 1897), 4:393.
[6] San Francisco Daily Examiner, June 12, 1865, p. 1, col. 5; Roske, Everyman’s Eden, 318; Davis, Political Conventions, 198-99; 201; Hittell, California, 4:390. Low was the first California governor to serve a four-year term.
[7] Eugene H. Berwanger, The West and Reconstruction (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1981), 28; Foner, Reconstruction, 66; California, Senate Journal, 16th Sess., 1865-66, “First Biennial Message of Governor Frederick F. Low,” Dec. 8, 1865, 54, 55-57; U.S., Constitution, amend. 13, secs. 1 and 2; Alta, Dec. 7, 1865, p. 1, col. 5, Dec. 16, 1865, p. 1, col. 4; Robert H. Becker, ed., Some Reflections of an Early California Governor, (Sacramento Book Collectors Club, n.p., 1959), 52.
[8] Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of California (7 vols. San Francisco: The History Company, 1886-1890), VII:303, 317, 323; Thomas E. Malone, “The Democratic Party in California, 1865-68,” (M.A. thesis, Stanford University, 1949), 4-5, 6; Hittell, California, 4:393-94; Roske, Everyman’s Eden, 374. Bancroft (VII:326) used the following quote from the San Francisco Flag to illustrate Senator Conness’ political power: “If a popular citizen is suggested as a suitable person for a certain office, he cannot be nominated without having been first chalked out on Conness’ slate; he must express his readiness to pack and eat dirt for the Great Senatorial Manipulator. If we require a member of the legislature, he must be a friend of our ‘only sober senator.’ If we want a sheriff, the Great Western Prestidigitateur pours him out of a magic bottle. If we desire a justice of the peace, the Great First Cause creates one directly. . . .”
[9] Davis, Political Conventions, 219, 599; Malone, “Democratic Party,” 6-8, 10; Sacramento Daily Union, July 22, 1865, p. 2, col. 1; For biographical information about Senator Cornelius Cole, see, accessed April 5, 2004.
[10] Davis, Political Conventions, 223-24; Malone, “Democratic Party,” 12, 22.
[11]San Francisco Elevator, Aug. 25, 1865, p. 2, col. 2; Malone, “Democratic Party,” 14, 23-24; Davis, Political Conventions, 216; Examiner, Sept. 5, 1865, p. 2, col. 3; Stockton Independent, Aug. 25, 1865, quoted in Malone, “Democratic Party,” 24.
[12] Union, July 17, 1865, p. 3, col. 2; Elevator, April 7, 1865, p. 2, col. 3, Aug. 18, 1865, p. 2, col. 4.
[13] Davis, Political Conventions, 223; Malone, “Democratic Party,” 18, 30-32; Roske, Everyman’s Eden, 375.
[14] Malone, “Democratic Party,” 51-52; Davis, Political Conventions, 226, 227, 231, 269; Alta, Dec. 7, 1865, p. 1, col. 5.
[15] Union, Jan. 26, 1866, p. 2, col. 1; Fishel, “Northern Prejudice and Negro Suffrage,”11; Wood, Black Scare, 87. By 1870 the Sacramento Union was Republican in orientation.
[16] Foner, Reconstruction, 69, 2466-247, 248n37; Franklin, Reconstruction, 38-39, 58-61; William E.B. DuBois, “Reconstruction and Its Benefits,” American Historical Review, 15 (July 1910), 783; Davis, Political Conventions, 233; Union, Feb. 23, 1866, p. 2, col. 2, April 16, 1866, p. 2, col. 2; Elevator, Feb. 23, 1866, p. 2, col. 2.
[17] Foner, Reconstruction, 250-251; Franklin, Reconstruction, 60; Stampp, Reconstruction, 135-36.
[18] Examiner, June 20, 1865, p. 2, col. 1, March 30, 1866, p. 2, col. 2; Union, March 29, 1866, p. 2, col. 2, April 20, 1866, p. 2, col. 2.
[19] Elevator, May 26, 1865, p. 3, col. 2. See Wood, Black Scare, 23-24, 55, and 91 for further evidence and discussion of Irish hostility to blacks.
[20] Union, Feb. 26, 1866, p. 8, col. 2.
[21] Examiner, March 2, 1866, p. 1, cols. 2-4, March 21, 1866, p. 2, col. 1.
[22] James A. Fisher, “A Social History of California Negroes, 1850-1900,” (M.A. thesis, California State University, Sacramento, 1966), 87-88; San Francisco Evening Tribune, July 2, 1866, p. 2, cols. 1-2; Examiner, June 26, 1866, p. 2, col. 1.
[23] Randall and Donald, Civil War and Reconstruction, 580-83; Stampp, Reconstruction, 136; U.S., Constitution, amend. 14, secs. 1, 2, and 3.
[24] Randall and Donald, Civil War and Reconstruction, 580-581; Stampp, Reconstruction, 93.
[25] Stampp, Reconstruction, 141-42; Congressional Globe, 39th Cong. 1st Sess., Feb. 27, 1866, 1056; Stockton Independent quoted in Examiner, April 27, 1866, p. 2, col. 2; Fishel, “Northern Prejudice,” 15; Randall and Donald, Civil War and Reconstruction, 583.
[26] Franklin, Reconstruction, 67-68; Union, June 25, 1866, p. 2, col. 2; California, Assembly Journal, 17th Sess., 1867-68, “Second Biennial Message of Governor Frederick F. Low,” Dec. 2, 1867, 51-52; Hittell, California, 4:422; Berwanger, West and Reconstruction , 120-121. See also, accessed Nov. 12, 2004.
[27] Foner, Reconstruction, 264-265; Franklin, Reconstruction, 65-67; Randall and Donald, Civil War and Reconstruction, 584-585; Stampp, Reconstruction, 114-15; San Francisco Daily Morning Call, Aug. 12, 1866, p. 2, col. 2; Sept. 2, 1866, p. 2, col. 2; Elevator, Jan. 19, 1866, p. 2, col. 3.
[28] Stampp, Reconstruction, 117-18; Call, Oct. 14, 1866, p. 2, col. 2
[29] Stampp, Reconstruction, 142, 144; Fishel, “Northern Prejudice,” 25-26; Davis, Political Conventions, 268-270. In 1868 California voted for Ulysses S. Grant by a majority of 506 out of a total vote of 108,000. See Bancroft, California, VII:331.