Meeting at the Capitol Last Night

August 2, 1867

Summary

People from the country in Virginia want more influence in the Republican party and wish that their voices be heard.Both white and black men are dissatisfied and both black and white men serve on the party executives.The speaker does not want an official position, just that the opinion of the rural population be heard.

Transcription

MEETING AT THE CAPITOL LAST NIGHT. WHITE AND COLORED MEN DISSATISFIED. Injustice to Country Delegates. A FREE INTERCHANGE OF VIEWS. HARMONIOUS CONCLUSION. Pursuant to a call generally circulated yesterday after it became evident that the African Church Convention had become a mere mass meeting, a large number of the dissatisfied delegates met in the Hall of the House of Delegates at 8 o'clook last night. Mr. Botts was not present, and for some moments it seemed that the movement would be a failure; but, alter some hesitation, Dr. R. D. Beckley (colored), of Alexandria, took the floor, and moved that Fields Cook (colored), of Richmond, be appointed chairman. This motion was unanimously concurred in, and for the first time in the history of Virginia a colored man occupied the Speaker's chair in the Hall of the House of Delegates. Dr. W. Wing, of Norfolk, was elected secretary; after which the Chairman announced the meeting open for business. A large number of ex-Federal officers, now citizens of Virginia, were present, and seemed to be much dissatisfied with the action of the Mass Convention. Cornelius Harris and Hodges, both colored, then occupied the attention of the meeting for some moments, and created much amusement by the expression of the hope that they might yet sit in this legislative hall as representatives of the people. A colored delegate named Lucas also made a few remarks, suggesting that as there seemed to have been some dissatisfaction among the members of the Convention, these dissatisfied gentlemen should be invited to give their views. In response to this call, Mr. Crenshaw, of Henrico, made a brief but earnest address. He said that the delegates from the country did complain of the action of the mass meeting held to-day. He would state the grievance of the Henrico delegation. A resolution had been carried directing that a committee consisting of one from each county in the State should be appointed on Permanent Organization. Henrico county appointed Mr. Franklin Stearns by a unanimous vote of the delegation; but Mr. Stearns, on presenting himself, was refused permission to participate in the deliberations of the committee, and a man whom no one had ever heard of before was received in his place. Was this right? Was this justice? My colored friends, I appeal to you. [No! no! no!] The speaker said he was a Union man, a Quaker, and had advocated the cause of the black man when it was dangerous to take such a course. Was it right, then, that he should now be excluded from the councils of the party? He advised colored men to be tied to no man, but to think and act for themselves, and he rejoiced that Dr. Bayne had to-day stood up for this principle. Dr. R. D. Beckley, a colored man from Alexandria, a member of the grand jury of the United States Circuit Court, and well known as a leading Radical, then gained the floor. He said that he blessed God that he could stand to day, a free man, in the house in which so many acts for the oppression of his race had been passed. He then alluded to the history of the Republican party in Virginia, and reviewed the antecedents of the Convention. It was understood, he said, in the conference which resulted in the call of this Convention that the object was to get in men from every part of the State. He was pained therefore, much pained, at the scenes witnessed to-day. The Richmond men had been instructed to crowd out the unsophisticated or unprepared men from the rural districts, and thereby carry their own points. Their foul work had been done, and well done. When we came to-day calmly to deliberate upon the prospects of our party we found the doors closed until the Central Committee were ready to go into the church. They finally came, and sneaked in like dogs by the back way, opened the doors, and let all Richmond rush in, while the delegates - true Union delegates - from the country were left out in the cold. Further, we have invited citizens of Virginia to join us in the great work which occupies our attention? Are we then acting in good faith if we turn our backs upon them when they come? No! Let them sit with us, vote with us, and help us to maintain the principles which we cherish. The speaker was neither a Botts nor a Hunnicutt man, but desired justice. He saw with dismay the attempts of some gentlemen in Richmond to make catspaws of the colored people, in order to get the nice chestnuts (fat offices) which were roasting in the fire, it would not do. Every man must act for himself, despite the man who says "If you don't stand by me the party will go to the devil. [This was understood to be a hit at Hunnicutt.] In regard to Mr. Botts, continued Beckley, I agree with the editor of the New Nation. He then quoted from a number of that paper published a few days ago an article highly eulogistic of Mr. Botts, stating that he was "as true to the flag as the needle to the pole." The whole article extravagantly praised Mr. Botts, and, as read by Beckley, with sharp and sarcastic comments, elicited shouts of laughter and plause. If Mr. Botts is all that Hunnicutt had said, what more can be demanded? I don't understand this editor. He must explain his opposition to a gentleman for whose rally he has so recently vouched. In conclusion, Beckley said that the convention on the Square was no convention, and he could not return to his constituents in Alexania with a clear conscience until one is held. He didn't want the party split, but the men who have come from a distance should have a fair shake, as they had been promised a warm welcome. The speaker had no axe to grind, sought no office, but, as an humble citizen, merely desired the harmony and perpetuity the Republican party of the United States.
About this article

Contributed By

Stacey Dec

Identifier

DecStacey-18670802-MeetingAtTheCapitolLastNight.pdf

Citation

“Meeting at the Capitol Last Night,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed December 5, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/679.