The Dark Side
May 1, 1869
Governor Wells asserts that Virginians cannot be trusted to govern their state. Simultaneously, Virginians accuse Wells of his untrustworthiness. They say he is simply grappling for power and influence rather than trying to improve the well-being of his constituents.
The Dark Side. Governor Wells heads the party of vulgar offensiveness and bloody proscriptions. He has declared that the people of Virginia cannot be trusted; that the Republican party--i. e., the Wells party--must rule in order to protect the "truly loil" from persecution; and that disenfranchisements and disqualifications should be carried far enough to insure the supremacy of that party. Therefore, he sustains the UNDERWOOD constitution as it is-- "that thing"--and has imbued all his followers, black and white, with the belief that there is no hope for them save in that constitution. Now, these proscriptions but continue the passions and pains of war and the alienation of the whites and blocks of Virginia. They must keep alive the jealousies and distrust that are fatal to peace and security and destructive of prosperity. And what for? Why, to keep WELLS in power--that is all. There must be social war and pecuniary ruin here that a single man shall be kept in office and maintained at the expense of the people whom he proposes to ruin! Were his record the purest, such heartlessness and greed--such criminal recklessness of the peace and welfare of the State--should condemn him to everlasting infamy. Can any man contemplate the picture of nearly the whole white population of the State disqualified from holding office without horror ? Can he appreciate the disasters that must follow to all the public interests from a government from which all the best capacities and virtues of the State are excluded? Who will vote for a man who proposes in this way to put all of us under the ban and continue without limit the prostration of the State? What white man will vote for his own exclusion from the rights of a citizen? --for the continuation of discontent, hate, and war? How can the colored people vote for a man whose avowed policy cripples industry, deprives labor of its reward, and can only end in utter ruin? Do colored people desire to live in a state of continued hostility towards the white people whom they know, and upon whom they rely, and must rely, for employment and support? Are they to go on fighting under the Wells flag for oppressing the whites and impairing their welfare? Will they not see that thus they only do themselves incalculable harm? Between this Wells party--with its proscriptive policy and its vile passions and hates, which imperil society--and the liberal Walker party there is the widest possible contrast. One threatens social discord, with the abomination of desolation; the other promises harmony, thrift, and peace. Who can hesitate between them?
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“The Dark Side,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed February 20, 2018, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1328.