The New Movement: Editorial Correspondence
January 27, 1869
Passage of the law requiring those disqualified to vacate their positions within thirty days has people questioning whether the Virginia convention will achieve anything. According to some lead congressmen, this is not indicative to how congress is handling the Virginia convention. Rather, this is to be applied as of now to new states coming into the union.
THE NEW MOVEMENT. EDITORIAL CORRESPONDENCE Washington, January 25, 1869. The passage of the resolution requiring the removal of all officers in States provisionally governed thirty days after its passage it cannot be denied causes uneasiness in the minds of the Virginians. Unless there should he some early demonstration in Congress tending to break its force and logical consequences it mav be regarded as disastrous. I am informed by two leading members of Congress that it is not intended to bear upon the new movement in Virginia, but simply in the ordinary line of business touching the States not admitted into the Union; and that the action upon the plan from Virginia is not intended to be indicated by this resolution. Certainly this information is upon very good authority; but our apprehensions will of course increase in proportion to delay in considering the application from Virginia. Not looking at the passage of this resolution as aimed at the Virginia movement, nothing whatever has occurred of an unfavorable character, and the general expression of opinion has been altogether encouraging. Still, however, the main difficulty encountered here continues. That is the outcry of the hypocritical Wells party (for the best Republicans in Virginia are opposed to them) that if the white people of Virginia are enfranchised there will be no safety or protection for "loyal men." Than this nothing could be more false, and no accuser ever uttered an accusation which he better knew to be false. Whether Congress will consider this statement, so completely discredited by the history of Virginia and the genius and character of her people, sufficient ground to continue the disfranchisements in our State remains to be seen. I do not believe it. How can they trust men who are so evidently false to every obligation of honor and of justice to their fellow-men? How can they reconcile it to themselves to imperil the welfare of the State and the general harmony by placing over the State men so notoriously incompetent, so selfish, and rapacious ? The admission of Virginia on the plan of the " nine," under the circumstances that surround us, must nationalize the public sentiment of the State and place it in harmony with the Federal administration. This will exert a fine moral influence upon the sectional relations, which, like a bright sun acting upon the productions of the earth, will impart new life and vigor to all the pursuits of men. In view of this, can Congress be satisfied with nurturing a body of incompetent persons whose whole object is office, and who will curse the State with bad government and all its dread consequences? To-day, very much to the surprise of the few Virginians here, the question of the reconstruction of Virginia was brought up before the House Committee of Reconstruction. Mr. Whittlesey, of the State Journal. who has been living in Richmond two or three months, came before the committee and made his speech in opposition to the plan of the committee of nine. It was a tissue of libels upon the people and the public character of Virginia, the object of which was to make the impression that Union men would not be safe in Virginia if the white people were enfranchised. He followed in the track of Wells. His statements were unsubstantiated by a tittle of evidence that would be admitted by the veriest dolt who ever filled the office of magistrate. When asked if he ever knew of a ease in which a circuit court of Virginia had ruled differently between a Union man and a southern man- unfair to the former and favoring the latter - he replied that he never had ; but had " heard tell of such !" What stuff to be canted before a grave committee of the House of Representatives of the United States ! Before Mr. Whittlesey was called before the committee, the political parson, Phelps, from Staunton said his say. It was called a " ferocious sermon," a sort of sermonized canting phillipic upon the southern people, in which a gross outrage upon that people was sought to be justified by their alleged wickedness. The rebicund and boiling parson declared that such was the peril in which he lived that he had been compelled to preach with two pistols in his pocket! A member of Congress present said to another that if the parson were to preach any such sermon as that in New York anywhere south of Albany he would require four pistols for his protection. He thought it doubtful whether even with that number he would escape with whole bones- hardly his life. Mr. Phelps confessed that the Methodist church in Staunton- one of many he is trying to seize and possess - had 140-odd members, while he had none to speak of; (Mr. Baldwin says only one besides his son, who is irregular in his attendance !) but only give him the church, and his communicants would increase as rapidly as Kalstaff's in Buckram and Kendall Green. There was an irrepressible smile at these bright prospects of the red and boiling parson. Certainly the Committee of Reconstruction must be tired of such exhibitions of personal rancor, hypocrisy, selfishness, and ignorance, as they have heard in a few days past. The comparison which they have been enabled to draw between the true Virginians and those who have been vehemently urging the continued disfranchisement of the people of Virginia must have struck them as remarkable. It would be impossible for impartial judges to fail to be disgusted with the latter, while the frank and' manly bearing of the others would just as certainly have won their entire confidence. Never was there amongst men a rider contrast. All of the " nine " are absent save Mr. Neoson, of Richmond, who arrived here yesterday evening. Messrs. Stuart and Baldwin will be here to-morrow evening, and Mr. Sutherlin and others are expected soon. I learn that General Wilcox is making a tour of Virginia to ascertain whether there are persons who can take the prescribed test-oath to fill the offices that are to be soon vacated - especially those of the circuit judges. As far as I have heard, his success has been rather indifferent. Lysander Hill, who was subjected to Mr. Farnsworth's severe criticism, is about the most elevated amongst the aspirants in Judge Thomas's district ; but he is looking to the Supreme Court ! What times indeed ! C.
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“The New Movement: Editorial Correspondence,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed March 23, 2019, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1254.