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General Schofield, who was strongly opposed to disfranchisement, addressed the convention on April 17/* His views were moderate and sensible. He objected to the "iron-clad" oath as a great hindrance to government In many counties, he said, there were only one or two men capable of filling the local offices who could subscribe to the oath. He had no hesitation in declaring that it would be impossible to administer the government on this basis. He had not interfered with the convention before, but on this subject he thought the members were misinformed, and if the provision requiring the oath remained in the constitution, it would be fatal to it and probably to them. In consequence of this speech, some of the radical members moved to reconsider the whole subject of suffrage, but Hine objected, and the president decided that a two-thirds vote was necessary for reconsideration. A motion to suspend the rules was beaten, 26 to 32. Nothing more could be done and the constitution was adopted the same day, April 17, 1868, by a vote of 51 to 36. Several Republicans voted with the conservatives against its adoption."
A constitution framed by radicals was not likely to meet the approval of the people of the State in any case, and this constitution embodied new and revolutionary ideas, implied as well as declared. In consequence the conservative press assailed it without reservation. The Underwood constitution contained the great measures of the Virginia reconstruction policy, but not the extreme radical views. Civil equality was guaranteed alike to whites and blacks, and all men, without distinction of color, might vote, hold office and sit on juries, provided they were sane and had not committed certain offenses. Idiots, felons and duelists were disfranchised; likewise "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
"Enquirer and Dispatch, April 18, 1868. "Enquirer and Dispatch, April 18, 1868. 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, or 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."" The legislature, by a three-fifths vote of both houses, might remove the disabilities of this clause. Furthermore, all persons before entering upon office were required to take the "test-oath," to the effect that the subscriber had not voluntarily aided the Confederacy or held office under it. It will be seen that these were the disfranchising measures of the Federal government.
The "county organization" plan of the constitution also met with much condemnation." It was felt that it was an unnecessary innovation in the Virginia system and that the division of counties into townships was a cumbrous and expensive arrangement. The township system has never been a success in Virginia, being unsuited to the sparse population of many sections of the State.
The plan of "county organization" provided for a public school system. Nothing was said about separate schools for whites and blacks. The negroes in the convention had fought long and hard to gain an explicit declaration in the constitution of the right of colored children to attend any schools, but the white radicals recognized the impossibility of securing this demand, in view of the opposition of the white people, and the blacks finally abandoned the attempt.
Taxation was made equal and uniform on different species of property. Licenses were limited to a few callings, chiefly of a transitory nature. But the restrictions on this form of taxation have not been entirely observed.
The constitution in other main features did not meet with the approval of the Conservative people. Indeed they generally condemned it, on the ground that no fundamental law could be acceptable which excluded the majority of the
"Article III, Section 4.
• Article VIII.
leading men in the State from political rights. The evident hostility of the white people to the constitution prevented its immediate submission to the popular vote for ratification. The Republican leaders paused in uncertainty, studying the political conditions in hopes of a favorable chance of acceptance. But none came for more than a year, and Virginia continued to live under military rule, which was more palatable to the people than the new constitution. The election upon it was finally held the next year, with the disfranchising clauses offered for rejection or acceptance apart from the main body. The constitution was adopted and the disfranchising articles rejected, and Virginia resumed her Federal relations. Thus shorn of proscriptive features, the constitution proved to be a pretty good one, in spite of the fact that " carpet-baggers " had assisted in making it. The Underwood constitution continued to be the organic law of the State from 1869 until 1902, when the present constitution was framed.
The Restoration Of Virginia.
While the constitutional convention was still in session, Governor Peirpont's administration came to an end. On April 4, 1867, General Schofield issued an order removing him from the governorship and appointing in his place General Henry H. Wells.1 General Wells was a native of New York but had lived for many years in Michigan, whence he had come to Virginia in the early part of the Civil War. He served as provost-marshal of Alexandria.
The reason assigned for the removal of Peirpont was the expiration of his term of office. This does not seem plausible, however, in view of the fact that the government of Virginia was purely provisional, and that a new executive was appointed without regard to the constitution. In truth, Peirpont's influence, which had waned for a long time, was by this time entirely lost. Conservative newspapers charged that he was not sufficiently radical in his views to please the authorities, and this seems to have been the general opinion. Certainly Peirpont was not well identified with any party. His views were too conservative for him to lend hearty support to the more radical measures, although he upheld the necessity of acquiescing in negro suffrage and in the other privileges the freedmen had obtained. His compromising turn of mind led him to attempt to keep a certain balance which he would at times abandon under the force of circumstances. It must be remembered that his position was a singularly difficult one.1 He had been sharply criticized by the conservative press, but now that he was
1 Richmond Enquirer, April 5, 1868.
* Enquirer, April 27, 1868, and August 13, 1867.
gone his former critics admitted his many good qualities and his material services to Virginia.*
The appointment of General Wells to the governorship gave a death-blow to Mr. Hunnicutt's aspirations. His power had weakened considerably during the session of the constitutional convention, in which he showed little proof of constructive statesmanship, but he was yet popular with the negroes. Hunnicutt and John Hawxhurst both announced themselves as candidates for governor, as soon as the time of election was fixed by the convention, and both began an active canvass among the freedmen.' But it appeared that the rulers in Washington did not favor leaders whose influence was confined solely to the negro race. For the leadership of the Republican party in Virginia a man of greater consideration was needed; a man who might also gain influence with white voters. Partly for this reason Wells was elevated to the gubernatorial chair.' Besides, a growing antagonism had sprung up between the native white Republicans or those of long residence in the State— "scalawags "* as they were vulgarly called—and the adventuring carpet-baggers. The latter held the advantage, in that they were in possession of the Federal offices and also enjoyed more influence at Washington. The appointment of Wells was a decided victory for the carpet-baggers. They now gained a complete ascendancy in the Republican party and drew away the freedmen from Hunnicutt and their other old leaders.
Peirpont's removal marked the beginning of many official changes. A few days later John S. Calvert, the State treasurer, was dismissed on the charge of having retained State funds, and George Rye was appointed in his place.1 The superintendent of the State prison was also removed, and on May 8, Joseph Mayo, the mayor of Richmond,
* Enquirer, April 6, 1868. * Enquirer, March 24 and 27, 1868. 'New Nation, April 14, 1868.
'Scalawag is said to be a term applied to the scaly, scabby runts in a herd of cattle. See also Enquirer, October 7, 1868. 'Appleton's Annual Cyclopaedia, 1868, p. 761.