Virginia and Reconstruction
March 18, 1869
The war is over, negro freedom and suffrage has been setttled on, there should be no more reason to keep Virginia in this militia war like state. Trust the citizens and restore them to equality amognst citizens and peace will ensue.
Virginia and Reconstruction. The present condition of this State is matter for very serious deliberation with the National Government. In the relation of this State to the general welfare and power of the nation, her situation should be deeply interesting to the whole country, while her past history and participation in the establishment of the National Government, and in all that is glorious in its life down to the late war, should fill every generous and enlightened mind with anxiety for her fate. She stands now, with all her great natural resources, with all the moral force and energy of her public character, in a pitiable condition. Her industry is without discipline and order, her enterprise is crippled, her hopes depressed, and her prospect gloomy. Her social and political condition are alike unsettled. Tho fanatical agitations that immediately succeeded the war alienated the whites and blacks and established a war of races. This war has been continued by the swarm of stranger officehunters "who immediately followed the fanatical missionary preachers, and whose whole art of electioneering has consisted in flattering the negroes, filling their minds with rain imaginings and suspicions of the purposes and dispositions of the white people towards them. What wonder, then, that there are disturbance, disquietude, and apprehension, and that in a commercial, industrial, and social sense, there should be chaos come again in Old Virginia ? Now, the Government of the United States cannot afford and should not dream of being deprived of the great resources and great intellect of Virginia. We say this boldly, because we know we speak the truth. And this being the truth, the Government must take measures to place itself in possession of the advantages that most flow to it from these great elements. The source and fountain of all our trouble here, the obstruction in the way of throwing all the strength and moral force of Virginia in the great volume of national power, is the local government of the State. It is not such as will compose the social economy of the population? not such as will inspire confidence and stimulate enterprise- not such as will secure peace and prosperity. It is working incessantly to alienate still further the races and perpetuate a state of discontent by inspiring a want of confidence in the sincerity and fealty of the white population, without whose energy and untrammelled enterprise and participation in the Government there can be no success, and no peace in the State. These are facts. These are matters for the deliberate consideration of the United States Government in all its departments. They involve the prosperity, harmony, and very life of the nation. The people of Virginia are satisfied that negro suffrage is a settled question. "Where, then, is the cause for a perpetuation of that political line of division upon color only which was drawn firet by the fanatical preachers and afterwards continued by the mercenary ofiice-hunters for their selfish purposes ? Simply that those who profited by it should continue to enjoy the offices they secured to themselves - a reward which was to them everything, while the negro was nothing but an instrument : a ladder on which they mounted. The only question involved being settled, will the Government perpetuate the state of war which is destroying every interest in Virginia and giving up to despair and inactivity a population which is inferior to none in this Union, and which descends from the men who gave to the nation its chief renown? What, then, should the Federal Government do ? It should accord at once its trust and confidence to the people of Virginia. It should bring these people back into full cooperation with those of other States, assured that they will contribute their share to the national power and prosperity. It is a great misfortune for the whole nation that this venerable State is now chiefly governed in her civil relation by men who hold staff in hand ready to depart at any moment - who are here merely to fill the offices they occupy, and who only hope to continue in them by those agitations which disturb the social condition of the people ' and perpetuate disorder and peril. Whatever becomes of these men, that policy should be adopted towards Virginia which will put an end to the condition of things by which it appears they alone hope to rule. They excite the suspicion and jealousy of the naturally suspicious and jealous negro. Those suspicions and jealousies should be allayed, and the tendency to alienation between the races terminated. They declare that the people of Virginia are still rebellious, and not to be trusteda very great lie which Wells has uttered and his followers have endorsed. This great lie the Government of the United States owes it to justice and to the welfare and peace of the nation to denounce in the only effectual way? viz., by practically putting trust in these people by restoring them to freedom and equality amongst the citizens of this North American Republic. This measure of justice will do more to promote the harmony and peace of this Union than any that could now be adopted.
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“Virginia and Reconstruction,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed November 19, 2017, http://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1291.