The Constitution-General Schofield-The Negro
April 18, 1868
General Schofield advocates against the iron-clad oath in the Convention. The oath prevents qualified people from holding public office and does not hold any benefits. Schofield was accused of trying to mold the Constitution in favor of the white man. *Note: The entire Constitution of Virginia drafted in the Convention is listed on pages 5-7 of today's paper. Due to the length of the entire Constitution I have only transcribed the first part of it. If details are desired please follow the link below.
The Constitution- General Schofield-The Negro. The negro and scallawag farce of a convention convened in this city under the order of Congress, and which has been played here for one hundred and four days at a heavy expense as well serious injury to the State and the disgust of every honest and sensible man that has ever heard of it, was concluded yesterday, to the general joy of mankind. Before it ended its proceedings, true to its unreasoning and prescriptive character, it performed an act of crowning folly. We refer the reader to the report of the proceedings of yesterday. They are not only interesting but important. It will be seen that General Schofield, who is fully able to appreciate the political and social condition of this State, in a well tempered and judicious address endeavored to mollify the prescriptive spirit of the Convention at least so far as to get them to omit the iron-clad oath which had been put in the Constitution as a qualification for office. The General knew the difficulty with that oath in the way of getting persons qualified to discharge the duties of the public offices and direct State affairs in a manner consistent with the public welfare. He urged the Convention to repeal that oath, as well for the interests of the Republican party as for the good of the State. He spoke truly from a good deal of experience and much trouble in the effort to get capable men for offices of a responsible character. He was hardly beyond the sound of the debate in the hall before he was assailed in a contemptuous manner by the negroes, who have, through the madness and barbarism of the hour, been elected to places in the Convention. He was called " King Schofield" and his advice spurned as the introduction of "outside influence." His earnest and well-considered appeal was denounced as a part of a plan to shape "a Constitution for the white man," while the negro was to be the victim of treachery the white Radicals were charged with "going back" upon their negro auxiliaries. Kelso-a very presumptuous mulatto from Lynchburg-developed himself with many airs, and pledged himself and his constituents to knock a hole into the Constitution if the iron-clad oath was stricken out of it. The result was that General Schofield's appeal, backed by the earnest efforts of several white Radicals, was entirely fruitless. The "iron-clad oath" remains in the Constitutions. This manifestation of negro passion and presumption is but the development of the violent and relentless spirit which the white agitators of Virginia have conjured up and let loose upon the State a spirit which has kept society in commotion and apprehension for months, which demanded confiscation of white men's property, and disfranchisement of white men, with a ferocity that it was difficult for even its authors at all to restrain. It has been more or less every day in the Convention, and agitated the tatterdemalion black mobs which have daily blocked up the passages into and through the capitol and the galleries of the hall in which the Convention sat-idle, vociferating vagabonds, who should have been, for the months they have lost, assisting to make bread for themselves and those dependent upon them. This turbulence of the blacks in and out of the Convention has given vast trouble to the white Radicals who have been, drilling and instructing them in the business of attending the clubs and voting at the polls. These whites are really " negro drivers." They do not display the lash; but they have had the negro as complete a slave to party as he every was to his owner. At last he showed an aptness in proscriptiveness and a ferocity in the imposition of pains and penalties which even his instructors never dreamed he possessed. So now they see that their bloody instructions are flowing back rapidly to plague and confound the inventors. They discover that negroes are prone to favor punishments and disabilities even when they do not understand what they are for, and with the added monstrosity of visiting them upon their old masters, whom they know to be upright, kind, and honest men, and, furthermore, their best friends! The negroes have triumphed. They have despised the more prudent Radical advisers and scorned the advice of General Schofield, and their Constitution goes before the people. It goes with the reprobation of General Schofield, and will meet with the opposition of prominent Republicans, including Judge Snead, the ablest member of that party in the Convention. The Constitution will be Inevitably defeated, if for nothing else because of the detestable oath it contains. It is against a principle that must lie at the bottom of any reconstruction that may take place in Virginia-viz., that when the war was over there were no individuals resisting the Federal Government and therefore none can be properly disabled or deprived of their political privileges. They are the State, indeed, and must be its supporters, its guardians, and the administrators of its public affairs. The idea of taking up the slaves of '65 to make them legislators, or even voters, is monstrous; and as monstrous as that is, it is even more monstrous that a little body of scapegraces who were traitors during the war to both sides-who have neither integrity nor capacity-shall be set to manage the affairs of a great State-to be entrusted with offices requiring both talent and experience, and made custodians of public moneys when no individual would trust them with the smallest amount of his own money! This test oath is designed to, keep these last in office, and to ostracise the only people in Virginia who are fit to hold offices of trust and honor-viz., those who vere loyal to Virginia while the war lasted, and who, as soon as the war was over, gave in their adhesion to the conquering Government, which was their old Government, and to which they are as loyal as any people on this continent. No reconstruction can succeed in Virginia at least that ignores this principle the trustworthiness of these people, who are, as every honest and discerning man knows, the only hope and reliance for the restoration and maintenance of .order and thrift in this Commonwealth. It may be well that the ferocious and ignorant negroes, with a few of the most abominable of the Radical scallawaggerie, have carried out the villainous policy of disfranchisement in the Constitution. It only makes the complete rising of the white men to vindicate themselves and their State the more certain. It will assist to solve the problem of reconstruction in a manner more propitious to the State, and the more speedily overwhelm the white traitors with utter ruin and wrath. Already they are deeply perplexed with their condition, and their minds are filled with thick coming fancies of the dreadful dangers that lie before them.
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“The Constitution-General Schofield-The Negro,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed May 20, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/990.