“Thank God, we have a country at last: to live for, to pray for, and if need be, to die for.”
– L.Q.C. Lamar II
The following excerpt on the triumph of Black Republicanism in Reconstruction Mississippi comes from Nicholas Lemann’s book Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War:
“On the same day that Adelbert Ames was elected governor, the voters of the First District of Mississippi elected Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, of Oxford, to the U.S. Congress. Lamar was the model of the Southern Bourbon politician. Scion of a prominent Georgia family (in 1838 his uncle Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar had succeeded Sam Houston as president of the short-lived Republic of Texas), lawyer, politician, arch secessionist and defender of slavery before the Civil War, Confederate general, he had a big square marble block of a head set off by long, flowing brown hair and a Vandyke beard. He was, naturally, deeply opposed to Reconstruction. . . .
A couple of weeks before the election, having read an account of Ames’s speech in Jackson accepting the Republican nomination for governor (one of those speeches about which Ames had written so exultantly to his wife in Massachusetts, because it had gotten an enthusiastic audience response that made him feel he had successfully transformed himself from remote military officer to popular leader), Lamar set down his feeling about Ames and Mississippi politics at length in a letter to Clark.
“You will find that his mission in Miss., as proclaimed by himself, is the exclusion (by means of the ballot in the hands of the freedmen) from any share in the government, of the only class in which reside the elements of dignity virtue & the welfare of society,” Lamar wrote. As the letter went on, Lamar’s temper rose: “The real effect of his scheme is that the white people of the state shall be for four years longer practically denied the privilege of self government, their voice silenced, and their interests and their honor confided to strangers who neither comprehend the one nor believe in the existence of the other. I say strangers, for Gen. Ames admitted in his speech here, that his party of Northern men and enfranchised negroes were new to the political interests & institutions of the State … Draw a line on one side of which you see property, intelligence, virtue, religion, self-respect, enlightened public opinion, and exclusion from all political control; and on the other the absolute unchecked political supremacy of brute numbers, and there you will behold not one attribute of free government, but the saddest & the blackest tyranny that ever cursed this earth.”…
It does seem to me that if there was ever a time when the white people of this state, the men in whose veins flows the blood of the ruling races of the world, should rise & with one unanimous voice protest against the domination about to be piled upon them the present is that time. Can it be that the soul of our proud people which a few years ago rose with such keen sense of wrong and heroic effort has, by long oppression, been dulled into indifference & sullen despair?”
” … in which according to the Democratic paper in Vicksburg, “in many and ringing tones he declared that the contest involved ‘the supremacy of the unconquered and unconquerable Saxon race” which was not what he said in his speeches on the floor of the House in Washington.”
Former Gov. John James Pettus who had warned the people of Mississippi what the Black Republicans had in store for them died in exile across the Mississippi River in Arkansas in 1867.
Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar II was one of the dominant figures in Mississippi politics in the late 19th century in the time between Reconstruction and the Great Revolt of the Rednecks. After crafting Mississippi’s Ordinance of Secession and raising the 19th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, he became one of the leading Bourbon Democrats in the South who came to power after Redemption in 1877.
Lamar was the Mississippi counterpart of Wade Hampton III in South Carolina. He was a scion of the Lamar clan which one of the Old South’s leading slaveholding families and his very name “Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus” was a reflection of their classical republican ideology which was derived from the Romans. Lamar County, AL, Lamar County, MS and Lamar County, GA are all named in his honor.
After he took his seat as the first ex-Confederate to return to Congress, Lamar cannily advocated reconciliation between North and South in order to hasten the end of Reconstruction in Mississippi. He accomplished this by delivering a moving eulogy for Sen. Charles Sumner, the Black Republican abolitionist from Massachusetts who was the author of the Civil Rights Act of 1875, in which he called on the North and South to reunite as Americans and set aside sectional animosity.
It was a stroke of genius that won him national acclaim and enabled Lamar to formulate the Mississippi Plan which was the strategy that brought about the Redemption of Mississippi, Louisiana and South Carolina. Reconstruction ended in the South in 1877 when Lamar who was the chairman of the non-partisan Election Commission chose the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes to become president by awarding him the votes of Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana in the electoral college. In the aftermath of Redemption, Lamar represented Mississippi in the Senate in Washington. He was nominated by President Grover Cleveland and served as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The moral of the story: L.Q.C. Lamar II brought about the Compromise of 1877 which ended Reconstruction not by resorting to violence, but by defusing sectional animosity and appearing above the fray. The Klan had been suppressed several years earlier by the Force Act of 1871.