(April 29, 2021) Although today’s corporate media and academics are obsessed with bogus claims of black voter disfranchisement, there was a time when Southern whites were the ones disfranchised. Corporate media is ignorant of it because academia obscures the history. It began after the Civil War when Republicans passed the 1867 Reconstruction Acts over President Andrew Johnson’s vetoes. The Acts required that the former Confederate states, except Tennessee, form new state governments at conventions where delegates were to be selected at elections in each state. Tennessee was excepted because she already had a Republican-controlled puppet regime that denied former Confederates the right to vote. Until the new state governments were formed, the remaining ten states were ruled by martial law.
Notwithstanding Constitutional norms, Congress dictated that all adult black males were to be eligible to vote for delegates in the ten applicable states although the new state governments were authorized to limit white voting rights. (The Southern black enfranchisement required by the Reconstruction Acts would not apply to any Northern state where voting regulations remained a State’s Right.) Consequently, few Northern states permitted blacks to vote even though they had tiny black populations. Congress further dictated that Southern whites would need to demonstrate their eligibility to register in a complex process administered under the glitter of federal bayonets. In retrospect, it should surprise nobody that the states were “miraculously” able to limit the white voters to a number that resulted in elections providing Republican-controlled vassal regimes in the Southern states.
Each state had multiple registrars that had to qualify for their position by taking a Union loyalty oath passed by Congress on July 2, 1862, which was during the Civil War. Known as the “Ironclad Oath” the oath-taker was required to avow that he never supported the Confederacy. Consequently, no former Confederate could be a registrar. Thus, with few exceptions, only those Southerners who supported the Union, or avoided military service during the war, could qualify as registrars.
Many such men wanted sinecures in the new state governments. Thus, they had an incentive to limit the number of Democrat voters, which included nearly all whites. Consequently, the registrars were able to reject qualified whites as voters on arbitrary pretexts. Upon completion 703,000 blacks and 627,000 whites were registered to vote, giving the ex-slaves a 53%-to-47% majority over the whites. Historian James Ford Rhodes, who was an Ohioan and lived during Reconstruction, concluded that an aggregate of 150,000 Southern whites were disfranchised across the ten states. Perhaps as many as 100,000 more were disfranchised by Tennessee’s scalawag regime.
Results varied from state-to-state. Blacks composed most of the registrants in the five states of South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, and Alabama. Blacks and whites split Georgia fifty-fifty where only a small voting bloc of white Carpetbaggers and Scalawags could swing election results. Although whites retained a majority in Arkansas, Texas, North Carolina, and Virginia their majorities were significantly reduced. Before the disfranchisement whites would have represented 69% of the registered voters whereas they represented only 57% after disfranchisement. After the registration process was completed, the Republican elements in those states used various other ways to further disfranchise whites.
In Arkansas, for example, the Carpetbag governor controlled the 1868 autumn elections by declaring martial law in ten counties where he threw out all ballots and intimidated other whites through the state’s plundering Black Militia. In Texas the military commanders eventually required that all elected officials be capable of taking the “Ironclad Oath” thereby disqualifying any former Confederate from office. Most Texas whites concluded that such restrictions provided only a dubious list of candidates and boycotted the 1868 elections. The situation was much the same in North Carolina where many whites were disgusted with the list of candidates. Virginia avoided white disfranchisement by arranging for a special election under the aegis of President Grant’s short-lived inaugural goodwill in which the state’s voters were given the option to vote down the disfranchisement provisions; they did so in July 1869.
In general, since blacks controlled most of the votes the cotton states there was little need to disfranchise whites. But in the states North of the cotton belt, disfranchisement was common. Ultimately the Carpetbag regimes collapsed because they raised taxes beyond the limits which the region could pay. Grifters plundered the revenue and distributed morsels of political patronage to blacks who generally did not pay taxes.
It was an era of misrule labeled by Americans more contemporary to the period as Negro Rule, or Negro Supremacy. To rid themselves of the misrule, with unfortunate terminology Southerners argued that Negro Supremacy should be replaced with White Supremacy. While such terminology partly reflected anti-black racism it also reflected opposition to political corruption, unaffordable taxation, and unsustainable spending. It was the latter points that caused most of the racism as a byproduct of resentment over misrule. In fact, the state governments that replaced the Carpetbag regimes generally did not restrict black voting rights. (That would happen later.) Instead, the replacement governments abolished the high taxes, wasteful spending, and centralized power of the Carpetbag regimes.