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The Federal Elections Bill of 1890: The Continuation of Reconstruction in America

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 June 2020

Colin McConarty
Affiliation:
Boston College
Corresponding
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Abstract

Between May 1890 and January 1891, members of Congress debated a bill whose sponsors claimed it would shore up voting rights throughout the nation, especially in the South. The Federal Elections Bill of 1890 never became law, but the debate over it drew Americans’ beliefs about voting, race, and the South back to the forefront of U.S. politics. Historians have relied mostly on two types of sources in their explorations of how Americans viewed the bill: newspapers and the words of political leaders. But 202 letters that individuals around the nation sent to Senator George Frisbie Hoar (R-MA) during the bill's nine-month life in Congress open a new window into the debate. These letters challenge the traditional history of the Federal Elections Bill and the late nineteenth century by revealing that issues historians traditionally have limited to the Reconstruction Era, in fact, still mattered profoundly to Americans in 1890.

Type
Essays
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (SHGAPE)

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References

1 Cited in Upchurch, Thomas, Legislating Racism: The Billion Dollar Congress and the Birth of Jim Crow (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004), 88Google Scholar.

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5 See, for instance, Edwards, Rebecca, “Politics, Social Movements, and the Periodization of U.S. History,” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 8:4 (Oct. 2009): 464–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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15 Calhoun, Charles W., Conceiving a New Republic: The Republican Party and the Southern Question, 1869–1900 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2006), 261Google Scholar; Perman, Michael, Struggle for Mastery: Disenfranchisement in the South, 1888–1908 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 6Google Scholar; Keyssar, The Right to Vote, 111.

16 Welch, Hoar, 161.

17 Calhoun, Conceiving a New Republic, 226.

18 Crofts, “The Blair Bill and the Election Bill,” ii.

19 Dunn, From Harrison to Harding, 59.

20 Edwards, New Spirits, 226.

21 Dunning, Essays, 363.

22 This article counts Maryland and Kentucky as southern states, in addition to the eleven that declared secession between 1860 and 1861.

23 See Wang, The Trial of Democracy, 232, 240–41; De Santis, The New Departure Years, 200–1; Upchurch, Legislating Racism,120; Calhoun, Conceiving a New Republic, 249–50, 226–62 passim.

24 Richardson, Heather Cox, To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party (New York: Basic Books, 2014), 124–25Google Scholar.

25 Wang, The Trial of Democracy, 241; De Santis, Republicans Face the Southern Question, 202–3.

26 D. C. Wasson to George Frisbie Hoar, May 20, 1890, Box 45, George Frisbie Hoar Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS), Boston, MA.

27 South Carolina Republican Association to Hoar, July 24, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46; G. D. Jacques to Hoar, Dec. 10, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 47.

28 Royal Robbins Jr. to Hoar, July 24, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

29 Walker Brock to Hoar, July 23, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

30 Charles Stearns to Hoar, July 29, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

31 C. Downing to Hoar, July 11, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

32 J. W. Applegate to Hoar, Dec. 10, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 47.

33 John A. Romell to Hoar, July 24, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

34 George M. Robbins to Hoar, Aug. 2, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

35 Anonymous to Hoar, July 23, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

36 Mrs. James Bennett to Hoar, May 22, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 45.

37 Andrew A. Chambers to Hoar, Sept. 10, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 47.

38 John M. Groh to Hoar, Dec. 15, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 47.

39 B. H. Harley to Hoar, July 9, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

40 Anonymous to Hoar, July 23, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

41 D. L. Russell to Hoar, July 22, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

42 L. Harley to Hoar, May 28, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 45.

43 J. W. Applegate to Hoar, Dec. 10, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 47.

44 John A. Romell to Hoar, July 24, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

45 B. O. Duncan to Hoar, June 3, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

46 A. W. Shaffer to Hoar, July 8, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

47 D. L. Russell to Hoar, Jan. 3, 1891, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 48.

48 George M. Robbins to Hoar, Aug. 2, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

49 George William Latimore to Hoar, Aug. 9, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

50 J. W. Applegate to Hoar, Dec. 10, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 47.

51 John A. Romell to Hoar, July 24, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

52 A. W. Shaffer to Hoar, July 8, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

53 B. H. Harley to Hoar, July 9, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46. See also Anonymous to Hoar, July 23, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

54 B. O. Duncan to Hoar, May 24, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 45.

55 B. H. Harley to Hoar, July 9, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

56 John A. Romell to Hoar, July 24, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

57 Andrew A. Chambers to Hoar, Dec. 10, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 47.

58 B. F. Handforth to Hoar, July 24, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

59 Anonymous to Hoar, July 23, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

60 C. Downing to Hoar, July 11, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

61 John A. Romell to Hoar, July 24, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

62 Henry S. Chase to Hoar, July 25, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

63 Washington Post, July 13, 1890; New York Times, Apr. 30, 1890.

64 Washington Post, Aug. 1, 1890. See also New York Times, July 31, 1890.

65 New York Times, Aug. 2, 1890. Also see Washington Post, Aug. 23, 1890.

66 Washington Post, July 2, 1890.

67 Washington Post, July 17, 1890.

68 New York Times, June 29, 1890. See also New York Times, June 23, 1890, July 31, 1890, and Aug. 27, 1890.

69 New York Times, Aug. 27, 1890. See also New York Times, Aug. 2, 1890 and Nov. 27, 1890.

70 New York Times, July 31, 1890. Also see Washington Post, July 31, 1890 and Aug. 1, 1890; New York Times, July 11, 1890 and Aug. 27, 1890.

71 New York Times, Aug. 2, 1890 and Washington Post, July 21, 1890.

72 Washington Post, July 21, 1890. See also Washington Post, July 31, 1890 and Dec. 4, 1890.

73 G. H. Crane to Hoar, Aug. 4, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

74 D. C. Wasson to Hoar, May 20, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 45.

75 Charles Stearns to Hoar, July 7, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

76 C. W. R. Bush to Hoar, July 22, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

77 John A. Edmondson to Hoar, Jan. 3, 1891, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 48.

78 Anonymous to Hoar, July 23, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

79 Afro-American News Company to Hoar, Sept. 2, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 47.

80 Benjamin F. Bell to Hoar, Aug. 20, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

81 H. Price Williams to Hoar, July 24, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

82 N. Seabury Simmons to Hoar, Aug. 22, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

83 George S. Houghton to Hoar, Aug. 22, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

84 D. L. Russell to Hoar, July 22, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

85 O. H. Platt to Hoar, July 14, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

86 Charles Stearns to Hoar, July 29, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

87 Augustus Hammond to Hoar, Aug. 28, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

88 William R. Moore to Hoar, Apr. 28, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 45.

89 D. L. Russell to Hoar, Jan. 3, 1891, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 48.

90 W. R. Buck, Nov. 12, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 47.

91 Wallach Folsom to Hoar, Sept. 12, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 47.

92 Benjamin F. Bell to Hoar, Aug. 20, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

93 Daniel R. Rutherford to Hoar, Aug. 21, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

94 H. Morgan to Hoar, July 28, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

95 James Manton to Hoar, July 10, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

96 Charles Stearns to Hoar, July 7, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

97 G. B. Williams to Hoar, Aug. 20, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

98 H. Price Williams to Hoar, July 24, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

99 J. E. Bruce to Hoar, Aug. 8, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

100 O. H. Platt to Hoar, July 14, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

101 Clarke W. Harrington to Hoar, Sept. 20, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 47.

102 South Carolina Republican Association to Hoar, July 24, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

103 H. Price Williams to Hoar, July 24, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

104 Francis T. Morton to Hoar, Dec. 9, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 47.

105 Charles Stearns to Hoar, July 29, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

106 J. E. Bruce to Hoar, Aug. 8, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

107 Royal Robbins Jr. to Hoar, July 24, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

108 H. Price Williams to Hoar, July 24, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

109 Henry S. Chubb to Hoar, May 10, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 45.

110 W. R. Moore to Hoar, Apr. 28, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 45.

111 R. A. Mosley Jr. to Hoar, July 26, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

112 L. Harley to Hoar, June 4, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

113 Maxwell Woodhull to Hoar, Aug. 1, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

114 See, for instance, Upchurch, Legislating Racism, 167–209; De Santis, Republicans Face the Southern Question, 210–11; Hirshson, Farewell to the Bloody Shirt, 221–22.

115 See, for instance, De Santis, Republicans Face the Southern Question, 210–13; Upchurch, Legislating Racism, 126.

116 See, for instance, Calhoun, Conceiving a New Republic, 247–51.

117 See, for instance, Burton, Theodore E., John Sherman (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Co., 1973), 368–76Google Scholar. For more on the legislative goals of the Fifty-first Congress, see Upchurch, Legislating Racism, 11.

118 Other historians have noted a similar trend with incoming correspondence of other senators. See De Santis, Republicans Face the Southern Question, 207. Senator Gideon Moody (R-SD) also reported in Aug. 1890 that based on incoming letters, his constituents were more eager for the elections bill than any other measure. See Philadelphia Press, Aug. 19, 21, 1890. Cited in Calhoun, Conceiving a New Republic, 249.

119 Royal Robbins Jr. to Hoar, July 24, 1890, Hoar Papers, MHS, box 46.

120 Perry, Elisabeth Israels, “Men Are from the Gilded Age, Women Are from the Progressive Era,” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 1:1 (Jan. 2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

121 Schneirov, “Thoughts on Periodizing the Gilded Age.” Also see Schneirov, Richard, “Rejoinder to Rebecca Edwards and James L. Huston,” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 5:3 (July 2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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126 Fink, Leon, The Long Gilded Age: American Capitalism and the Lessons of a New World Order (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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128 Richardson, “Reconstructing the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.”

129 Mayhew, David R., “Suggested Guidelines for Periodization,” Polity 37:4 (Oct. 2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Orren, Karen and Skowronek, Stephen, The Search for American Political Development (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 89CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

130 Polsky, Andrew J., “No Tool Is Perfect: Periodization in the Study of American Political Development,” Polity 37:4 (Oct. 2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Sanders, Elizabeth, “In Defense of Realignment and Regimes: Why We Need Periodization,” Polity 37:4 (Oct. 2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Shafer, Byron E., “Orders and Eras in American Politics,” Polity 37:4 (Oct. 2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

131 Ackerman, Bruce, We the People, Vols. I–III (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1991–2014)Google Scholar.

132 Polsky, “No Tool Is Perfect: Periodization in the Study of American Political Development,” 524–25; Heather Cox Richardson, “Reconstructing the Gilded Age and Progressive Era,” 7.

133 Springfield Republican, July 7, 1890. Cited in Rhodes, History of the United States, 362.

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