A free ballot and a fair count: the Department of Justice by Robert Goldman

By Robert Goldman

"A unfastened poll and a good count number" examines the efforts via the dept of Justice to enforce the federal laws glided by Congress in 1870-71 referred to as the Enforcement Acts. those legislation have been designed to implement the vote casting rights promises for African-Americans lower than the lately ratified 15th modification. The Enforcement Acts set forth a number of federally enforceable crimes geared toward scuffling with white southerners' makes an attempt to disclaim or limit black suffrage. There are a number of features of this paintings that distinguish it from different, past works during this quarter. opposite to older interpretative reviews, Goldman's fundamental thesis is that, the federal government's makes an attempt to guard black vote casting rights within the South didn't stop with the splendid Court's opposed rulings in U.S. v. Reese and U.S. v. Cruikshank in 1875. Nor, it's argued, did enforcement efforts stop on the finish of Reconstruction and the so-called Compromise of 1877. fairly, federal enforcement efforts after 1877 mirrored the ongoing dedication of Republican social gathering leaders, for either humanitarian and partisan purposes, to what got here to be known as "the loose poll and a good count." one other precise point of this booklet is its specialize in the position of the federal division of Justice and its officers within the South within the endured enforcement attempt. Created as a cabinet-level govt division in 1870, the Justice division proved ill-equipped to reply to the frequent criminal and extra-legal resistance to black suffrage by way of white southern Democrats within the years in the course of and after Reconstruction. the dept confronted a number of inner difficulties akin to inadequate assets, terrible communications, and native group of workers frequently appointed extra for his or her political acceptability than their prosecutorial or criminal abilities. via the early Eighteen Nineties, while the election legislation have been eventually repealed by means of Congress, enforcement efforts have been sporadic at top and principally unsuccessful. the top of federal involvement, coupled with the wave of southern country structure revisions, ended in the disfranchisement of the majority of African-American citizens within the South by means of the start of the 20 th Century. it'll no longer be until eventually the Nineteen Sixties and the "Second Reconstruction" that the government, and the Justice division, might once more try and make sure the "free poll and a good count".

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Extra info for A free ballot and a fair count: the Department of Justice and the enforcement of voting rights in the South, 1877-1893

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40. S. Revised Statutes, 5506-32. 41. C. Vann Woodward, ”Seedsof Failure in Radical Race Policy,”in American Counterpoint: SZavery and Racism in the North-South Dialogue (Boston, 1971),163-83. 2 “A Meet Person Learnedin the Law”:The Attorney General and the Justice Department before 1877 THERESPONSIBILITYfor enforcing the Fifteenth Amendment and the congressional legislation supplementing that amendment lay with the federal Department of Justice, officially organized 1870. Intheyearsfollowing asanexecutivedepartmentin Reconstruction, implementation of national policywith respect to the protectionof black political rights in the Southwas thus in thehands of an administrative agencythat was not only relatively new but for the most part decentralized in its organizational structureand bureaucratically unprepared to handleefficiently such an important and complex task.

The following sections setup the machinery and procedures whereby the act would be enforced. In terms of later enforcement of voting rights these were crucial sections, for responsibilityforenforcement of theact was givendirectlytolocal Justice Department officials. District attorneys, their assistants, federal marshalsand their deputies,and special commissioners of elections were all given authority to arrest, imprison, and set bail for those suspectedof violating provisions of the act. These officials were subject to fines for failure to and obeyexecute any warrants issued under the act, and all were placed under the authority of federal district courts and district court judges.

For examples of revisionist studies, see Kenneth M. Stampp, The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877 (New York,1967);William R. Brock, An American Crisis: Congress and Reconstruction, 1865-1867 (New York,1963); and LaWanda and John Cox, Politics, Principle, and support of the Coxes’ Prejudice, 1865-1866 (New York, 1969). For recent view of the Radical Republicans’ idealism and constitutional conservatism, see Michael Les Benedict, ”Preserving the Constitution: The Conservative Basis of RadicalReconstruction,” Journal of American History, 62 (June 1974): 65-90; and Glenn M.

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