White and Black: The Outcome of a Visit to the United States

Author: George Campbell  | Date: 1879

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Political Conditions in the South (1878)


I HAD . . . an opportunity of conversing with a coloured preacher, a clever and influential man. He seems, however, very extreme in his views. He says that during the election there was gross intimidation, and much unfair influence, but in spite of it all the blacks voted Republican as solid as ever. Nevertheless, the boxes were stuffed and the majority stolen. The election commissioners are all on one side, and so are the newspapers, and they openly published violent threats. . . .

I gather that the United States election supervisors were a poor lot—often coloured men; and they were frequently hustled and insulted. One of them was arrested on some frivolous pretext. According to one Northerner nothing but United States troops at every polling-place will prevent a strong and embittered minority from triumphing over a weak majority. In this part of the country the Republican or Radical party is dead for the present. The victory of the whites is now so complete that there is certainly peace such as there was not before. . . .

I paid a visit to my namesake Mr. C——, the independent Democrat, who stood for State Senator for this district, but was defeated. He is a lawyer, and all agree that he is a very superior man. I found him very moderate, and not at all inclined to be vituperative, although the election was bitterly contested. He says that he represented the principle of Conciliation against those who would not yield anything. The election was won by simple cheating; that is, by stuffing the ballot-boxes. At one polling-place not more than a thousand voted, but there were three thousand five hundred papers in the box. There was not much intimidation, but only cheating. . . .

As a general result of all that I have been able to learn about the elections in this part of the country, I may say that there does not seem to be the least doubt that they were won by the most wholesale cheating. That is avowed in the most open way. Most people seem to praise the negroes, and to be on very good terms with them; but they all admit that, while the blacks will do almost anything else for them, when it comes to voting they cannot be influenced, and insist on voting with their party. At one place that I visited, where a considerable number of Republican votes were recorded, an old Democratic gentleman jocularly remarked that this had been the only honest poll in the whole district. They say the Republicans made the election law to suit their own purpose of cheating, and had arranged the electoral districts so as to swamp the whites with black votes. Now they are hoist with their own petard, and serve them right. The blacks seem to have accepted their defeat as a foregone conclusion, and therefore it is that they are quite good-natured over it. Perhaps, too, they really have to some degree accepted Wade Hampton and his policy, and are not so anxious to fight as they otherwise might be. Both parties seem to assume as a matter of course that whichever controls the machinery of the elections will win the elections. I am told that Wade Hampton generally appointed two Democrats and one Radical as election commissioners; that the radical was always corrupt and could be bought, and that therefore the Democrats always had it their own way. The Democrats of Charleston have done something to conciliate those blacks who accept the Democratic ticket. In this district seventeen members are sent up to the State Assembly, and of these three are Democratic blacks. The county officers are whites, but there are some blacks in the Charleston municipality. For the State Assembly the Republicans adopted a fusion ticket, including the five best of the Democrats.

Hitherto three Congressional districts in the black part of South Carolina have been represented by black men, and I am told that they were all very fair specimens. The representative of the Charleston district was a well-educated negro, from the North. The Georgetown district was represented by an extremely polished black gentleman, who was formerly a very popular barber in Charleston, and is not at all a bad sort of person. . . .

I observe that in a great number of the elections for county and local offices in these Southern States the opportunity is taken to provide for the veterans of the Confederate army who are not eligible for pensions. I saw several notices of elections of one-legged and one-armed ex-sol-diers to county offices. These offices are profitable—if not paid by salaries they have considerable fees.

Looking over the accounts of the elections in other States, of which the papers are full, I observe that Governor Nicholls, of Louisiana, is said to be conciliatory and to have followed the same policy as Wade Hampton; but there the negroes fought more successfully than here; and in some cases the Democrats carried the seats in Congress only by adopting a fusion ticket and giving the blacks a good many county offices. There seems to be more ’bulldozing’ in Mississippi than anywhere else. That is called ’the Mississippi plan.’ South Carolina seems to be the only State which carried everything solidly Democratic. In all the others there has been more or less success of Republican or independent candidates.

Sir George Campbell, (London, 1879), 321–332 passim.

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Chicago: George Campbell, White and Black: The Outcome of a Visit to the United States in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1903), Original Sources, accessed May 27, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=U1HAU2GDNFQPQV2.

MLA: Campbell, George. White and Black: The Outcome of a Visit to the United States, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 4, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1903, Original Sources. 27 May. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=U1HAU2GDNFQPQV2.

Harvard: Campbell, G, White and Black: The Outcome of a Visit to the United States. cited in 1903, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 27 May 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=U1HAU2GDNFQPQV2.