Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2015, April 29: A veteran of Reconstruction defends it from Lost Cause dogma (3)

John Roy Lynch did a follow-up to the article from which I quoted yesterday. The second piece is called, More About the Historical Errors of James Ford Rhodes The Journal of Negro History (3:2 Apr 1918). It's mostly devoted to defending his previous piece on several specific factual points on which he certainly looks to have the better of the particular critic to whom he's responding.

There are two points that I'll emphasize here. One is his discussion of the antidemocratic turn in the Supreme Court, embodied in particular by their overturning of anti-discrimination and voting rights protections in the federal Civil Rights Act approved during Reconstruction that effectively gutted those laws (not unlike the Roberts Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act in more recent years!):

I think would have been, different. The unfortunate thing about those decisions is the wide scope of authority thus conceded to the States. In other words, they amount to a judicial re-cognition of the dangerous doctrine of States Rights - a doctrine which has been the source and the cause of most of our domestic troubles and misfortunes since those decisions were rendered. But for those unfortunate decisions our country would not be cursed and disgraced today by lynch law and other forms of lawlessness and racial proscription and discrimination. But for those unfortunate decisions lynchings could have been and I am sure would have been held to be an offense against the peace and dignity of the United States as well as the State in which the crime is committed. Consequently, the criminals could be, and in most cases would be, prose cuted in the United States courts, as was done in the case of many of the leaders of that secret criminal organization called the Ku Klux Klan. [my emphasis]
He also mentions the obvious absurdity of the Court's decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which he does not name specifically:

The court has also decided that a State law providing separate accommodations for white and colored people on railroad trains, at least for a passenger whose journey begins and ends in the same state, is not an abridgment in violation of the constitution, provided the accommodations for the two races are exactly equal. This means that the validity even of those laws will not be affirmed whenever it can be shown that the accommodations are not equal, which can be very easily done. Equal separate accommodations are both a physical and a financial impossibility. It is simply impossible for a railroad company to provide the same accommodations for one colored passenger that it provides for one hundred whites. If, then, a colored passenger cannot occupy a seat or a sleeping berth in a car in which white persons may be passengers, this will not only be an abridgment, but in some cases, an absolute denial of such accommodations. The ultimate nullification of such unfair, unjust and unreasonable laws must necessarily follow. [my emphasis in bold]
The other point is Lynch's further defense of the quality of the Reconstruction government's in Mississippi. The critic to whom he is responding, to whom he refers as "the expert," had claimed that the alleged mismanagement in Reconstruction was more prominent in local governments than the state:

In other words [as Lynch reads the claims of "the expert"], there was nothing wrong with the State administration; it was the local county and municipal governments that were bad. And yet, a fair and impartial investigation will reveal the fact that there is no more foundation for this allegation than for those about the State government. It is admitted that during the early part of Reconstruction the local tax rate was high, the reasons for which are fully explained in [Lynch's 1913 book] The Facts of Reconstruction. Such an investigation would show that the charges of extravagance, recklessness and maladministration so generally made about the administration of county and municipal affairs were grossly exaggerated and nearly, if not all of them wholly untrue. In fact, the expert flatly contradicts himself on this point, because he admits that the evidence does not support the charge of dishonesty in the case of the Negro sheriffs, and yet the sheriff is the principal officer in the administration of the county government. [my emphasis in bold]

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