Committee of Nine Article

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The Committee of Nine was a group of conservative political leaders in Virginia, who engineered the political machinery so that both the Old Dominion might be readmitted into the Union, following the American Civil War. Led by Alexander H. H. Stuart, the committee campaigned to ensure that former Confederate officers and sympathizers would be able to keep their voting rights.

Events Leading to the Creation of Committee of Nine

Following the American Civil War, Military Reconstruction Acts required Confederate states to revise their constitutions for the civilians to take control over the state, instead of the military. [1] Because Virginia's 1850 Constitution supported slavery, which became illegal during the American Civil War, and the delegates drafting the 1864 Constitution under provisional Governor Francis Harrison Pierpont did not represent the entire state, Virginia needed to draft and adopt a new Constitution to end military rule. A constitutional convention was held in December 1867 in order to formulate a new constitution. The Constitutional Convention had three main areas of focus regarding state administration: voting regulations, restrictions concerning officeholding, and social policies. [2]

Former Confederates were not permitted to vote for members of the Constitutional Convention of 1867-68, which abolitionist federaş judge John Curtiss Underwood dominated. A charter named after him was drafted by the Constitutional Convention. The Underwood Constitution had plans for "free schools for both races, equal rights provisions, and reforms of local government." [3] The new constitution included very strict clauses concerning ex-Confederates. Due to the unpopularity of these clauses, General Schofield delayed the Underwood Constitution's ratification. [4]

Virginia Republican executive committee requested for a referendum on the Underwood constitution, when the Congress reassembled in December 1868. [5] On December 9, the House Committee of Reconstruction passed a bill to provide money for the referendum, however, the Christmas holidays arrived before the bill was received by the Senate. Alexander H. H. Stuart wanted to get rid of the disenfranchisement clauses (which were disliked by the Conservatives, as well as moderate Republicans) before the referendum was held.

Creation of Committee of Nine

A narrative of the leading incidents of the organization of the first popular movement in Virginia in 1865 to re-establish peaceful relations between the northern and southern states, and the subsequent efforts of the "Committee of Nine," in 1869, to secure the restoration of Virginia to the Union.

Stuart wrote a letter to outline his plans and publicize his objections concerning the clauses. He argued for universal amnesty and for the creation of another constitution with the disenfranchisement clauses to present to the Congress. His letter was published in the Richmond papers under the pseudonym, "Senex."

In his work, "A narrative of the leading incidents of the organization of the first popular movement in Virginia in 1865 to re-establish peaceful relations between the northern and southern states, and the subsequent efforts of the "Committee of Nine," in 1869, to secure the restoration of Virginia to the Union", Alexander H. H. Stuart describes his motives behind writing and publishing the letter as following:

"I have no doubt that hundreds—nay, thousands—of my fellow-citizens thought and felt as I did as to the necessity of taking action on the subject. But no one seemed to be willing to assume the responsibility of taking the lead! Under these circumstances, as the necessity for moving in the matter was urgent, and the time within which action likely to lead to a successful result was limited to two weeks, I determined to sound a note of alarm by calling the attention of the people of Virginia to the frightful dangers which threatened them, and urging those who thought as I did to unite in an organized attempt to avert them. With this object in view, I wrote “a communication,” over the signature “Senex,” intended for publication in the Richmond Dispatch. This paper was written entirely on my own responsibility, and without conference or consultation with anyone. My purpose was to try and arouse the people to the necessity of immediate action, and to suggest as the most feasible, if not the only, means of obtaining relief from the disenfranchisement and test oaths embodied in the Underwood Constitution, the tender to Congress on behalf of Virginia of a compromise, on the basis of universal suffrage as an equivalent for universal amnesty." [6]

Although the letter was criticized by some Conservatives, many moderates and centrist Virginians were pleased by Stuart's plans. [7] These Virginians met at the Exchange Hotel, in Richmond, on the 31st of December, 1868 and on the 1st of January, 1869. Their meetings led to the creation of the Committee of Nine. It was decided that Alexander H. H. Stuart would act as a chairman to a committee of nine people who would visit Washington to voice objections concerning the Underwood Constitution. [8]

Campaign in Washington

The committee aimed to go to Washington to authorize separate votes on the proposed new state constitution, and the provision which continued to disenfranchise former Confederates (mostly white Virginians) under the Reconstruction Acts.

John L. Marye, of Fredericksburg, one of the members of the Committee of Nine, suggested that Stuart invite Gilbert C. Walker, a northerner and who had been "defeated for a seat in the Underwood convention", to help the committee gain support in Washington. As predicted, Walker, a northern Republican helped the committee receive sympathy in the north. Horace Greeley's Republican newspaper, New York Tribune, joined the campaign. The Committee of Nine spent approximately two weeks in Washington. They met with congressmen and appeared before both the House and Senate committees. [9]

When the Republican party split in the autumn of 1868, Republicans who had been displeased with the constitutional convention joined forces with the Committee of Nine. These Republicans, such as Edgar Allen and Franklin Stearns, worked with the committee in Washington in the fight for a separate vote. They joined them in various meeting with important Congressmen and their work was influential, since the Republicans dominated the Congress at the time.

Governor Henry H. Wells argued that Unionists would be at risk in Virginia if the disabling clauses were removed from the proposed Virginia Constitution and followed the Committee of Nine and their supporters around in Washington. [10]

Upon meeting with the Committee of Nine, the Congress approved the removal of the disabling clauses. However, in order to be readmitted, it required Virginia to ratify the Fifteenth Amendment as well. [11]

Influences on the Underwood Constitution

During the meeting with members of the Committee of Nine in Washington, President-elect Grant showed sympathy towards the committee's objects and plans.

Grant was inaugurated on March 4th 1869. Following his inauguration, on the 14th of May, 1869, President Grant issued the following proclamation:

“Every person who has been a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President or Vice-President, or who held any office, civil or military, under the United

States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State Legislature,

r as an executive or judicial officer of any State, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” [12]

With this statement, the committee achieved their goal of authorizing a separate vote for former Confederate sympathizers.

1869 Virginia Gubernatorial Election

Letter Announcing Virginia's Readmission to the United States, 1870

Radical Republicans and Wells wished for the referendum to take place as it was stated in the Underwood constitution. They feared that the separate vote would lead to conservative dominance in the state. At the same time, a convention in March would take place for the Republican party to come up with nominations for the state elections. The Committee of Nine and moderate Republicans, also referred to as "Stearns Republicans", wanted to ensure that Governor Wells would be defeated. They agreed that conservative men such as Franklin Stearns, William L. Owen, and Gilbert C. Walker should be nominated for state administration. [13]

Although the moderates failed to gain control of the Republican party, they nominated the northerner businessman Gilbert C. Walker as a moderate candidate. With the help of the alliance between the moderate Republicans and Conservatives, Gilbert C. Walker won the Gubernatorial Election of 1869. [14]

Even though Radical Republicans, who had passed the Reconstruction Acts, still dominated the Congress, they allowed Virginia to be readmitted into the Union on January 26, 1870. A letter announcing the readmission was signed by the governor of Virginia, Gilbert C. Walker.

Committee members

As the chairman, Stuart was responsible for opening conferences when they appeared before the Senate and the House as well as making statements about their objections concerning the Underwood Constitution. [15]

Colonel Baldwin was to present their views to the House and the Senate and elaborate upon them. In addition, he was the writer of a paper requested by the Judiciary Committee of the Senate which explained the alterations the Committee of Nine wanted to make in the Underwood Constitution. This paper was signed by all of the members. Stuart stated that with this role, Baldwin became "the most conspicuous member of the committee."

Colonel W. T. Sutherlin, of Danville, was one of the guests who joined Alexander H. H. Stuart at the Exchange Hotel in Richmond. Stuart's letter was read to him by General Echols, who was also present at the hotel for the meeting. After hearing Stuart's words, Sutherlin promised to work with them. Later, General Echols met with various newspapers to publish the article "Senex", however many refused, including Dispatch and Enquirer. When Echols discussed the results of his meetings, Sutherlin offered to go with him. They visited the editor of Whig, Alexander Mosely, who agreed to publish the paper. [16]

Although he was not an official member of the Committee of Nine, former Confederate general John Echols worked closely with Stuart to publish the letter "Senex" and to set up the compromise. He was a part of a committee of three, along with F. G. Ruffin and James D. Johnston, appointed by Alexander H. H. Stuart. The purpose of this committee was to recommend eight other men to serve in the Committee of Nine. [18]

Further reading

  • Stuart, Alex. H. H., A Narrative of the Leading Incidents of the Organization of the First Popular Movement in Virginia in 1865 to Re-Establish Peaceful Relations Between the Northern and Southern States, and of the Subsequent Efforts of the "Committee of Nine" to Secure the Restoration of Virginia to the Union, Richmond, Va.: Wm. Ellis Jones, Book and Job Printer, 1888.

References

  1. ^ Zuczek, Richard, ed. (2006). Encyclopedia of the Reconstruction Era Volume 1:A-L. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 173-174. ISBN  0-313-33074-3.
  2. ^ Zuczek, Richard, ed. (2006). Encyclopedia of the Reconstruction Era Volume 1:A-L. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 174. ISBN  0-313-33074-3.
  3. ^ Trefousse, Hans L. (1991). Historical Dictionary of Reconstruction. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 235. ISBN  0-313-25862-7.
  4. ^ Zuczek, Richard, ed. (2006). Encyclopedia of the Reconstruction Era Volume 1:A-L. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 162. ISBN  0-313-33074-3.
  5. ^ Lowe, Richard (1991). Republicans and Reconstruction in Virginia, 1856-70. London: University Press of Virginia. p. 159. ISBN  0-8139-1306-3.
  6. ^ Stuart, Alexander H. H. "A narrative of the leading incidents of the organization of the first popular movement in Virginia in 1865 to re-establish peaceful relations between the northern and southern states, and the subsequent efforts of the "Committee of Nine," in 1869, to secure the restoration of Virginia to the Union". Library of Congress. Richmond, Va.: W. E. Jones, Printer. pp. 23–24. Retrieved May 21, 2017.
  7. ^ Lowe, Richard (1991). Republicans and Reconstruction in Virginia, 1856-70. London: University Press of Virginia. p. 160. ISBN  0-8139-1306-3.
  8. ^ Stuart, Alexander H. H. "A narrative of the leading incidents of the organization of the first popular movement in Virginia in 1865 to re-establish peaceful relations between the northern and southern states, and the subsequent efforts of the "Committee of Nine," in 1869, to secure the restoration of Virginia to the Union". Library of Congress. Richmond, Va.: W. E. Jones, Printer. pp. 35–36. Retrieved May 21, 2017.
  9. ^ Lowe, Richard (1991). Republicans and Reconstruction in Virginia, 1856-70. London: University Press of Virginia. p. 161. ISBN  0-8139-1306-3.
  10. ^ Lowe, Richard (1991). Republicans and Reconstruction in Virginia, 1856-70. London: University Press of Virginia. p. 161-162. ISBN  0-8139-1306-3.
  11. ^ Trefousse, Hans L. (1991). Historical Dictionary of Reconstruction. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 241. ISBN  0-313-25862-7.
  12. ^ Stuart, Alexander H. H. "A narrative of the leading incidents of the organization of the first popular movement in Virginia in 1865 to re-establish peaceful relations between the northern and southern states, and the subsequent efforts of the "Committee of Nine," in 1869, to secure the restoration of Virginia to the Union". Library of Congress. Richmond, Va.: W. E. Jones, Printer. p. 73. Retrieved May 21, 2017.
  13. ^ Lowe, Richard (1991). Republicans and Reconstruction in Virginia, 1856-70. London: University Press of Virginia. p. 162-164. ISBN  0-8139-1306-3.
  14. ^ Lowe, Richard (1991). Republicans and Reconstruction in Virginia, 1856-70. London: University Press of Virginia. p. 167-168. ISBN  0-8139-1306-3.
  15. ^ Stuart, Alexander H. H. "A narrative of the leading incidents of the organization of the first popular movement in Virginia in 1865 to re-establish peaceful relations between the northern and southern states, and the subsequent efforts of the "Committee of Nine," in 1869, to secure the restoration of Virginia to the Union". Library of Congress. Richmond, Va.: W. E. Jones, Printer. p. 42. Retrieved May 21, 2017.
  16. ^ Stuart, Alexander H. H. "A narrative of the leading incidents of the organization of the first popular movement in Virginia in 1865 to re-establish peaceful relations between the northern and southern states, and the subsequent efforts of the "Committee of Nine," in 1869, to secure the restoration of Virginia to the Union". Library of Congress. Richmond, Va.: W. E. Jones, Printer. pp. 31–32. Retrieved May 21, 2017.
  17. ^ Shaw, Dan. "Historic Buildings in Halifax County, Virginia". www.oldhalifax.com. Retrieved 2018-06-11.
  18. ^ Stuart, Alexander H. H. "A narrative of the leading incidents of the organization of the first popular movement in Virginia in 1865 to re-establish peaceful relations between the northern and southern states, and the subsequent efforts of the "Committee of Nine," in 1869, to secure the restoration of Virginia to the Union". Library of Congress. Richmond, Va.: W. E. Jones, Printer. p. 35. Retrieved May 21, 2017.