The Great Conspiracy

This plan was first thoroughly tried in Mississippi, and has hence been
called the “Mississippi plan.” So magically effectual was it, that,
with variations adapted to locality and circumstances, this “Mississippi
plan” soon enveloped the entire South in its mesh-work of fraud,
barbarity, and blood. The massacres, and other outrages, while
methodical, were remittent, wave-like, sometimes in one Southern State,
sometimes another, and occurring only in years of hot political
conflict, until one after another of those States had, by these crimes,
been again brought under the absolute control of the old Rebel leaders.
By 1876, they had almost succeeded in their entire programme. They had
captured all, save three, of the Southern States, and strained every
nerve and every resource of unprincipled ingenuity, of bribery and
perjury, after the Presidential election of that year had taken place,
in the effort to defeat the will of the People and “count in,” the
Presidential candidate of the Democratic Party.

[The shameful history of the “Tilden barrel” and the “Cipher
Dispatches” is too fresh in the public mind to be entirely

Failing in this effort, the very failure became a grievance. On the
principle of a fleeing thief diverting pursuit by shouting “Stop thief,”
the cry of “fraud” was raised by the Democratic leaders, North and
South, against the Republican Party, and was iterated and reiterated so
long and loudly, that soon they actually began, themselves, to believe,
that President Hayes had been “counted in,” by improper methods! At all
events, under cover of the hue and cry thus raised, the Southern leaders
hurried up their work of Southern solidification, by multiplied outrages
on the “Mississippi plan,” so that, by 1880, they were ready to dictate,
and did dictate, the Democratic Presidential nominations.

[Senator Wallace, of Pennsylvania, telegraphed from Cincinnati his
congratulations to General Hancock, and added: “General Buell tells
me that Murat Halsted says Hancock’s nomination by the Confederate
Brigadiers sets the old Rebel yell to the music of the Union.” In
the Convention which nominated Hancock, Wade Hampton made a speech,
saying; “On behalf of the ‘Solid South,’ that South which once was
arrayed against the great soldier of Pennsylvania, I stand here to
pledge you its solid vote. [cheers] * * * There is no name which
is held in higher respect among the people of the South, than that
of the man you have given to us as our standard-bearer.” And
afterward, in a speech at Staunton, Virginia, the same Southern
leader, in referring to the action of the Democratic Convention at
Cincinnati, said: “There was but one feeling among the Southern
delegates. That feeling was expressed when we said to our Northern
Democratic brethren ‘Give us an available man.’ They gave us that

While these old Rebel leaders of the South had insisted upon, and had
succeeded in, nominating a man whose record as a Union soldier would
make him popular in the North and West, and while their knowledge of his
availability for Southern purposes would help them in their work of
absolutely solidifying the South, they took very good care also to press
forward their pet Free-Trade issue–that principle so dear to the hearts
of the Rebel Cotton-lords that, as has already been hinted, they
incorporated it into their Constitution of Confederation in these words:

“SEC. 8.–Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties,
imposts and excises for revenue necessary to pay the debts, provide for
the common defense, and carry on the Government of the Confederate
States; but no bounty shall be granted from the Treasury, nor shall any
duty or tax on importation from Foreign Nations be laid to promote or
foster any branch of industry.”

It may also be remarked that, under the inspiration of those Southern
leaders who afterward rebelled, it had been laid down as Democratic
doctrine, in the National Democratic platform of 1856–and “reaffirmed”
as such, in 1860–that “The time has come for the People of the United
States to declare themselves in favor of * * * progressive Free-Trade.
* * * That justice and sound policy forbid the Federal Government to
foster one branch of industry to the detriment of another.” But, by
1864, the Republican Protective-Tariff of 1860, had so abundantly
demonstrated, to all our people engaged in industrial occupations, the
beneficence of the great principle of home industrial Protection, that
Tariff-agitation actually ceased, and the National Democratic platform
of that year had nothing to say in behalf of Free-Trade!

After the close of the War, however, at the very first National
Democratic Convention, in 1868, at which there were delegations from the
lately rebellious States, the question was at once brought to the front,
and, under the inspiration of the old Rebel leaders aforesaid, the
Democratic platform again raised the banner of Free-Trade by declaring
for a Tariff for revenue. But the mass of the People, at that time
still freshly remembered the terrible commercial disasters and
industrial depressions which had befallen the Land, through the
practical operation of that baleful Democratic Free-Trade doctrine,
before the Rebellion broke out, and sharply contrasted the misery and
poverty and despair of those dark days of ruin and desolation, with the
comfort and prosperity and hopefulness which had since come to them
through the Republican Protective-Tariff Accordingly, the Republican
Presidential candidate, representing the great principle of Protection
to American Industries, was elected over the Democratic Free-Trade
candidate, by 214 to 71 electoral votes-or nearly three to one!

Taught, by this lesson, that the People were not yet sufficiently
prepared for a successful appeal in behalf of anything like Free-Trade,
the next National Democratic Convention, (that of 1872), under the same
Southern inspiration, more cautiously declared, in its platform, that
“Recognizing that there are in our midst, honest but irreconcilable
differences of opinion, with regard to the respective systems of
Protection and Free-Trade, we remit the discussion of the subject to the
People in their Congressional districts, and to the decision of the
Congress thereon, wholly free from Executive interference or dictation.”
The People, however, rebuked the moral cowardice thus exhibited by the
Democracy–in avoiding a direct issue on the doctrine which Democracy
itself had galvanized at least into simulated life,–by giving 286
electoral votes to the Republican candidate, to 63 for the Democratic,–
or in the proportion of nearly five to one.

Warned, by this overwhelming defeat, not to flinch from, or avoid, or
try to convert the great National question of Tariff, into a merely
local one, the National Democratic platform of 1876, at the instigation
of the old Rebel leaders of the now fast solidifying South, came out
flat-footedly again with the “demand that all Custom-house taxation
shall be only for revenue.” This time, the electoral vote stood almost
evenly divided, viz.: for the Republican candidate, 185; for the
Democratic candidate, 184;–a result so extremely close, as to lead to
the attempted perpetration of great frauds against the successful
candidate; the necessary settlement of the questions growing out of
them, by an Electoral commission–created by Congress at the instance of
the Democratic Party; great irritation, among the defeated Democracy,
over the just findings of that august Tribunal; and to the birth of the
alleged Democratic “grievance,” aforesaid.

The closeness of this vote–their almost triumph, in 1876,–encouraged
the Solid South to press upon the National Democratic Convention of
1880, the expediency of adopting a Free-Trade “plank” similar to that
with which, in 1876, they had so nearly succeeded. Hence the Democratic
platform of 1880, also declared decidedly for “A Tariff for revenue

The old Rebel leaders, at last in full control of the entire Democratic
Party, had now got things pretty much as they wanted them. They had
created that close corporation within the Union–that /imperium in
imperio/ that oligarchically–governed league of States (within the
Republic of the United States) which they termed the “Solid South,” and
which would vote as a unit, on all questions, as they directed; they had
dictated the nomination, by the Democratic Party, of a Presidential
candidate who would not dare to act counter to their wishes; and their
pet doctrine of Free-Trade was held up, to the whole Democratic front,
under the attractive disguise of a Tariff for revenue only.

[As Ex-Senator Toombs, of Georgia, wrote: “The old boys of the
South will see that ‘Hancock’ does the fair thing by them. In
other words, he will run the machine to suit them, or they will run
the thing themselves. They are not going to be played with any

In other words, they had already secured a “Solid South,” an “available”
candidate, and an “expedient” Free-Trade platform. All that remained
for them, at this stage, to do, was to elect the candidate, and enact
their Free-Trade doctrine into legislation. This was their current
work, so to speak–to be first attended to–but not all their work; for
one of the most brilliant and candid of their coadjutors had said, only
a few months before: “We do not intend to stop until we have stricken
the last vestige of your War measures from the Statute-book.”

Unfortunately, however, for their plans, an attempt made by them, under
the lead of Mr. Morrison of Illinois, in 1876, to meddle with the
Republican Protective-Tariff, had caused considerable public alarm, and
had been credited with having much to do with a succeeding monetary
panic, and industrial depression. Another and more determined effort,
made by them in 1878, under the lead of their old Copperhead ally,
Fernando Wood, to cut down the wise Protective duties imposed by the
Tariff Act, about 15 per cent.,–together with the cold-blooded Free-
Trade declaration of Mr. Wood, touching his ruinous Bill, that “Its
reductions are trifling as compared with what they should be. * * * If
I had the power to commence de novo, I should reduce the duties 50 per
cent., instead of less than 15 per cent., upon an average
as now proposed,”–an effort which was narrowly, and with great
difficulty, defeated by the Republicans, aided by a mere handful of
others,–had also occasioned great excitement throughout the Country,
the suspension and failure of thousands of business firms, the
destruction of confidence in the stability and profitableness of
American industries, and great consequent suffering, and enforced
idleness, to the working men and working women of the Land.

The sad recollection of these facts–made more poignant by the airy
declaration of the Democratic Presidential candidate, that the great
National question of the Tariff is a mere “local issue,”–was largely
instrumental, in connection with the insolent aggressiveness of the
Southern leaders, in Congress, in occasioning their defeat in the
Presidential contest of 1880, the Republican candidate receiving 214
electoral votes, while the Democratic candidate received but 155
electoral votes.

In 1882, the House of Representatives was under Republican control, and,
despite determined Democratic resistance, created a Tariff-commission,
whose duty it was “to take into consideration, and to thoroughly
investigate, all the various questions relating to the agricultural,
commercial, mercantile, manufacturing, mining, and (other) industrial
interests of the United States, so far as the same may be necessary to
the establishment of a judicious Tariff, or a revision of the existing
Tariff, upon a scale of justice to all interests.”

That same year, in the face of most protracted and persistent opposition
by the great bulk of Democratic members, both of the Senate and House of
Representatives, and an effort to substitute for it the utterly ruinous
Democratic Free-Trade Tariff of 1846, the Bill recommended by this
Republican Tariff-commission, was enacted; and, in 1883, a modified
Tariff-measure, comprehending a large annual reduction of import duties,
while also carefully preserving the great Republican American principle
of Protection, was placed by the Republicans on the Statute-book,
despite the renewed and bitter opposition of the Democrats, who, as
usual, fought it desperately in both branches of Congress. But
Republican efforts failed in 1884, in the interest of the wool-growers
of the country, to restore the Protective-duties on wool, which had been
sacrificed, in 1883, to an exigency created by Democratic opposition to

Another Democratic effort, in the direction of Free-Trade, known as “the
Morrison Tariff-Bill of 1884,” was made in the latter year, which,
besides increasing the free-list, by adding to it salt, coal, timber,
and wood unmanufactured, as well as many manufactures thereof, decreased
the import duties “horizontally” on everything else to the extent of
twenty per cent. The Republicans, aided by a few Democrats, killed this
undigested and indigestible Democratic Bill, by striking out its
enacting clause.

By this time, however, by dint of the incessant special-pleading in
behalf of the obnoxious and un-American doctrine of Free-Trade,–or the
nearest possible approach to it, consistent with the absolutely
essential collection of revenues for the mere support of the Government
–indulged in (by some of the professors) in our colleges of learning;
through a portion of the press; upon the stump; and in Congress;
together with the liberal use of British gold in the wide distribution
of printed British arguments in its favor,–this pernicious but favorite
idea of the Solid South had taken such firm root in the minds of the
greater part of the Democratic Party in the North and West, as well as
the South, that a declaration in the National Democratic platform in its
favor was now looked for, as a matter of course. The “little leaven” of
this monstrous un-American heresy seemed likely to leaven “the whole
mass” of the Democracy.

But, as in spite of the tremendous advantage given to that Party by the
united vote of the Solid South, the Presidential contest of 1884 was
likely to be so close that, to give Democracy any chance to win, the few
Democrats opposed to Free-Trade must be quieted, the utterances of the
Democratic National Platform of that year, on the subject, were so
wonderfully pieced, and ludicrously intermixed, that they could be
construed to mean “all things to all men.”

At last, after an exciting campaign, the Presidential election of 1884
was held, and for the first time since 1856, the old Free-Trade
Democracy of the South could rejoice over the triumph of their
Presidential candidate.

Great was the joy of the Solid South! At last, its numberless crimes
against personal Freedom, and political Liberty, would reap a generous
harvest. At last, participation in Rebellion would no more be regarded
as a blot upon the political escutcheon. At last, commensurate rewards
for all the long years of disconsolate waiting, and of hard work in
night ridings, and house-burnings, and “nigger”-whippings, and “nigger”-
shootings, and “nigger”-hangings, and ballot-box stuffings, and all the
other dreadful doings to which these old leaders were impelled by a
sense of Solid-Southern patriotism, and pride of race, and lust for
power, would come, and come in profusion.

Grand places in the Cabinet, and foreign Missions, for the old Rebels of
distinction, now Chiefs of the “Solid-Southern” Conspiracy, and for
those other able Northern Democrats who had helped them, during or since
the Rebellion; fat consulates abroad, for others of less degree; post-
offices, without stint, for the lesser lights; all this, and more, must
now come. The long-hidden light of a glorious day was about to break.
The “restoration of the Governnnent to the principles and practices of
the earlier period,” predicted by the unreconstructed “Rebel chieftains”
those “same principles for which they fought for four years” the
principles of Southern Independence, Slavery, Free Trade and Oligarchic
rule–were now plainly in sight, and within reach!

The triumph of the Free-Trade Democracy, if continued to another
Presidential election, would make Free-Trade a certainty. The old forms
of Slavery, to be sure, were dead beyond reanimation–perhaps; but, in
their place, were other forms of Slavery, which attracted less attention
and reprobation from the World at large, and yet were quite as effectual
for all Southern purposes. The system of Peonage and contracted
convict-labor, growing out of the codes of Black laws, were all-
sufficient to keep the bulk of the Negro race in practical subjection
and bondage. The solidifying of the South had already made the South
not only practically independent within the Union, but the overshadowing
power, potential enough to make, and unmake, the rulers and policies of
the Democratic Party, and of that Union.

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