March 7, 1868
Scallawags in the Convention plan to disenfranchise white voters and previous office holders while even the poorest of black citizens are allowed this right. Unsurprisingly the Dispatch is not very pleased with this plan.
Wholesale Disfranchisement. The Convention is made up of a pretty party of scallawags. "We do not believe they have sense enough to know that they cannot disfranchise anybody at the election upon the ratification of that burlesque upon a Constitution which they are manufacturing. There have been caucuses of the Radicals during the last week. Botts and Rives and their allies have excited the negroes to greater zeal in the cause of proscription. Negro paupers are to be allowed to vote ; but young men who had the misfortune to be accounted worthy to fill such offices as captain in the army and masters in the navy of the late Confederacy are to be disfranchised. This clause is absolutely contemptible. It is worse than anything in any of the southern Constitutions, made by negroes themselves. It comes from a mean, malignant heart, and was adopted by men blinded by passion and prejudice. It is a small business. We refer the reader to the report of the proceedings of the Convention for full information upon the subject alluded to. It will be seen that the Convention has disfranchised not only all those classes disqualified by the constitutional amendment, but has included hundreds of others-many of them young men who fought for their country as patriots, and who throughout the war never had one doubt that they were doing right young men who were led into the war by older ones, or compelled by the conscription laws to go whether they would or not (though of this latter class we imagine that not many got to be captains). We regard these as good indications. We shall have a united people to vote upon the question of ratification. We shall have a large army of zealous and energetic recruits in this work of voting down the negro Constitution. The scallawags have overstepped the bounds of prudence and policy. The real people of Virginia will teach them a lesson at the ballot-box when their detestable work is to be passed upon. It may be a waste of time to refer any Radical to constitutional or legal prohibitions, yet we will take the trouble to call the attention of the Convention to the following clause of the act from which they derive all the powers they have : " And when such Constitution shall provide that the elective franchise shall be " enjoyed by all such persons as have the " qualifications here in bated for electors " of delegates." Here it is clearly provided and declared in terms that the Convention shall not disfranchise any man not disqualified for holding office by the proposed constitutional amendment. Are there men of sense enough in the Convention to understand this plain provision of the law ? We doubt it.
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“Wholesale Disfranchisement,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed May 20, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/901.