In February 1875, Alabama’s black Republican legislators sent the following petition to the US Congress:
The Democratic Party of Alabama has made, and is now making, a deliberate and persistent attempt, as shown by their leaders in the present general assembly, to change the penal code and criminal laws of Alabama so as to place the liberty and legal rights of the poor man, and especially of the poor colored man, who is generally a Republican in politics, in the power and control of the dominant race who are, with few exceptions, the landholders, and Democratic in politics.
We need not remind you how such a policy is at variance with all the results intended to be wrought out by the war for the preservation of the Union. That was a conflict of ideas as well as of armies. The issue was free-labor institutions and principles against slave-labor institutions and principles. It was a conflict between these two types of civilization. And yet, while the slave-labor system did not triumph at Appomattox, they are thus seen to be practically triumphant in Alabama. After the war came reconstruction, by which the free-labor type of civilization was believed to have been firmly established throughout the entire South . . . But no sooner does the Democratic Party accede to power in Alabama than its leaders propose to forget not only all that has been done and promised, but to undo, as fast as possible, that which was wrought out by the war, and all that has since been promised in connection therewith. It would practically reverse the verdict wrought out at the point of the bayonet, reverse the policy of Reconstruction, and strike out of existence not only our free-State constitutions, but the laws made in pursuance thereof, thus violating the fundamental conditions of the readmission of Alabama into the Union. If this is allowed to be done, it is not difficult to perceive that the war for the Union was a grand mistake, and the blood and treasure of the people spent in vain.1
- 1 : American Social History Project, Who Built America? Working People and the Nation’s History, vol. 1, 3rd ed. (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007), 509.