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New England Men Who Do Not Believe in Popular Government

August 12, 2009
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The Force Bill supporters in 1891 were oblivious to the Constitution which preserved State authority on voting qualifications within their own jurisdiction, and blind to the unconstitutionality of the so-called 14th Amendment which attempted to make everyone a “citizen of the United States,” a revolutionary change in the Founders’ federal system. The perpetrators were New England Republicans, and their political power over the American South was dependent upon rigging elections and buying freedmen votes.

Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Wilmington, North Carolina

New England Men Who Do Not Believe in Popular Government:

“The first major issue considered by the Senate was the “Force” Bill, a measure introduced in the House by Massachusetts representative Henry Cabot Lodge, calling for federal supervision of national elections to prevent the [Southern] States from excluding black male voters. Butler was named as the prime example of abuse. “I went down and gave them tickets,” [Senator] Hoar quoted Butler. “and said that…they had a right to vote Republican…but if they exercised that right [imposing] taxes on me which destroyed my property…I [would] see that they left my plantation.” Hoar’s accusations infuriated Matthew, and he prepared a detailed assault on both the Force Bill and its Republican sponsors, which he delivered on December 17, 1891:

“If the bills should become law, it will establish…here in Washington, an imperial, central power [which is] wholly irresponsible to the people, a political junta firmly rooted in the administration of our public affairs. This measure, [which takes] elections out of the hands of the States and…the people, was inaugurated, formulated, and is being pressed [for] passage by a few New England men…who do not believe in popular government…A minority of the majority of this body…attempting to cram this bill down the throats of an unwilling people [should] be regarded…as shameless and brazen…a revolutionary purpose making them fit for popular impeachment.”

Butler then turned and attacked the senator from Maine, William P. Frye…”It was a tirade…he would bayonet [the South] into his way of thinking and voting…” [Then] Butler ended his talk with a direct appeal to the senators from the West. “[You asked] our assistance in the Chinese question,” he noted, reminding them of Southern support for the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. “We did not stop [then] to taunt you with…outrages you had perpetuated on this…race. We did not thrust our opinions offensively on you in regard to a question which you…[had] a more accurate knowledge than ourselves. Is it asking too much when we invoke a similar treatment from your hands?”

(Southern Hero, Matthew Calbraith Butler, Samuel J. Martin, Stackpole Books, 2001, pp. 262-263)

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