"Creoles Like the Amendment," Raleigh News and Observer, May 13, 1900
CREOLES LIKE THE AMENDMENT.
It Works to Perfect Satisfaction of the Educated and Uneducated Whites in the Sugar District.
By Josephus Daniels
Thibieodeaux, May 10. – “Under the Constitutional amendment, by reason of section five, every uneducated man, who could vote in 1867 or who is a son or grandson of such voter, could register on a permanent roll and votes as long as he lives, provided he registered on that roll by September 1, 1898. In this parish we took interest to see that every illiterate white man was registered under that section. I registered under it myself, and there were very few white illiterates who did not avail themselves of this provision. The amendment works splendidly, elections are fair, the educated and uneducated whites vote as heretofore, and there is better feeling in politics than for many years.” – Judge L.P. Caillonett
“Prior to 1878, there were no public schools here except mixed schools, open alike to white and negro children, and as the white people would not send to them, many children grew up without education. We were unwilling to disfranchise these neglected me or their children, the soldiers who followed Lee, or the men who helped rescue the State in 1876. That is why we put in section five. The illiterate white voters are delighted with the amendment.” – Hon. Thos. B. Badeaux
“Nearly all the illiterate whites registered. As an example I may mention that in ward five (a county township) there are 540 voters. I know every man in the ward, about one-half of whom are uneducated. All registered except about twelve.” – Sheriff James Beary
“The has more than met public expectations. Our elections under it are closely contested and perfectly fair, white illiterates registered under section five and voted, few negroes vote, they are satisfied and there is good feeling between the races.” Hone. Andrew Price
Thibedeaux is the seat of government of the parish of Lafourche, a parish or county in southwest Louisiana which was early settled by the French. It is in the heart of the great sugar-producing district, and is in the big sugar Congressional district of the State. Here literally everybody “takes sugar in theirn” not that they drink much except wine but that bread, butter, house, lands, everything depends upon sugar. Is the sugar crop good and the prices high? Lafourche parish people are all prosperous and contented for sugar is to these people what cotton is to a strictly cotton county – say Anson, in North Carolina. Is the sugar crop short and prices low, then hard times and general depression falls upon al [sic]: the people, for sugar planters, laborers, business men and professional men are all dependent upon this chief crop.
It is in this Congressional district where the bolt to McKinley in 1896 received its chief impetus. Quite a number of sugar planters who had always been Democrats, smarting under what they deemed the injustice of he sugar schedules in the Wilson tariff act, quit the Democratic party and went over to the hearty and active support of McKinley. It carried consternation to Democratic hearts for a time and it was a demonstration calculate to depress Democrat for the sugar industry brings more money to this State than any other interest and I am informed that directly and indirectly about one-half of the people of the entire State are dependent upon it. In Southwest Louisiana it is regarded as the only paying crop and when sugar goes down the financial thermometer of all this section experiences a sudden and chilly drop. But fortunately all the sugar planters leaders of Democracy in this section did not go to McKinley. In truth most of the sugar planters stuck to the Democratic party, declaring that they were not ready to abandon their political faith. This division of sugar planters made this a hotly contested district in which the Democrats won a signal victory. The sugar planters as a rule always opposed the sugar bounty and saw that it had to fall and they foresaw that when it was repealed it would result in a reduction of the tariff on sugar. The Democrats have strong ground to stand upon now in their hostility to the new Republican programme [sic] of imperialism which, sooner or later, they feel will put the sugar of Louisiana in competition with the sugar made in Porto Rico [sic] and our colonies. They foresaw that the bounty in the long run would be the worst sort of help for the sugar industry, and now they feel that the new policy of imperialism is fraught with serious danger to them. In the recent April election quite a number of sugar planters, who went away in 1896, voted the Democratic State ticket. In a later letter I will have more to say about the political aspect of Louisiana with reference to the attitude of the sugar planters, and give some facts about the sugar industry of the State.
I arrived here this morning to investigate the operations of the amendment in a sugar producing parish populated largely by Creoles. Some years ago it was my good fortune to make the acquaintance of Hon. Andrew Price, who for eight years represented this district in Congress. Yesterday, desiring to renew a pleasant acquaintance of other years and investigate the workings of the amendment in a rural district, containing a large Creole population embracing a number of illiterate voters. I sent this telegram to Mr. Price:
Hon. Andrew Price. Thibedeaux. La.
Will come out to see you tomorrow if you will be at home and
can give me a few hours.
The telegraph operator, who had evidently before never heard the unmusical name given me, sent the telegram all right, but signed it “Josephine Daniels.” Now if some men had received a telegram from a party named “Josephine” it would have made trouble in the family, but the only trouble the mistake created was to delay an answer and to make a great deal of merriment when Mr. Price’s friends found that the “Josephine” who sent the telegram wore pantaloons.
There is no county in the State where the practical workings of the amendment could be studied with more satisfaction than in this parish, Lafourche. This is a county in which the Republicans have a strong party and put up a good fight. Even this year, with the negro vote eliminated, the vote stood: Democratic 1,136 Rep-Fusion 1106, a majority of only about 100, which was secured only after a hard fight. This represents all white voters, for though there are about 2,500 negro adults living in the parish none of them registered or offered to register, while 3,?53 white voters registered. In the old times, when the white and negro voters registered alike ( I quote from the registration of 1888), there were 3363 white registered voters and 2237 negro registered voters. Of the white voters 1,736 wrote their names to their applications to vote and 1,607 made their marks. Of the negroes 422 signed their names and 1,815 made their mark. Of course there have been changes since then, but there are still a large number of white illiterates in the parish, most of them being Creoles, descendants of the men who came here from Aready. Before the war they had few advantages in the way of education. When the war came on they were among the best soldiers in the Confederate army. When they returned home, the found that the Republican government gave no schools except mixed schools, for white children and colored children in the same schools, and these proud Creoles refused to send their children to school with the negroes, and so a number of them grew to manhood without educational advantages. In 1876, when the white people shoulded their guns and put an end to mixed schools and negro rule, these uneducated white men were foremost among the brave men who restored the State to the hands of white men, but it was not until the eighties that good schools were provided. In the constitutional convention, the men who insisted on section five to save the vote of these uneducated men came mainly from this and adjacent parishes. From this parish the delegates were Hon. Andrew Price, who was elected at large, Hon. L Caillonett, and Hon. Thos. Badeaux, the last two being Creoles, the first is Judge of this district, and the second one of the leading lawyers of southwest Louisiana. I spent three hours to-day [sic] talking to these three gentlemen and to Hon. James Beary, sheriff of the county. He is an Irishman originally from New York, and is one of the best posted men on the practical operation of the amendment I have met in Louisiana.
Calling attention to the statement of Senator Pritchard that the falling off in the vote in Louisiana in April was due to the disfranchisement of illiterate whites under the amendment, I asked Judge Caillonett whether there was foundation for the statement. He said: “It has not foundation to rest upon. The illiterate white men of this and adjoining parishes nearly all registered under section five, and the vote cast by them was as large in proportion as of education whites. A full vote is never polled anywhere but the vote here was large. There were in the recent election quite as many educated as uneducated who did not vote. Of course it was not so large in parishes where there were no contests for there was nothing to bring out the vote. In this parish we took interest to see that every illiterate white man was registered under section 5. I registered under it myself, and there were very few white illiterates who did not avail themselves of this provision. The amendment works splendidly, elections are fair, the educated and uneducated whites vote as heretofore, and there is better feeling in politics than for many years.
“When the amendment was first adopted, the Republican leaders ought to make it unpopular, and used their influence to persuade illiterate voters not to register under section five. They knew very well that if the illiterates would refrain from registering it would create such a revolution in the country that the amendment would become very unpopular. If for instance they could persuade the old uneducated father not to register under section five, they saw that when his educated son went to the polls to vote, he would be in a spirit ripe for revolution at the exclusion of his father who had been voting intelligently for half a century. The Republicans wanted a revolt against the amendment and if they had been able to keep every illiterate white from voting, they would have made a revolution. But they failed. Every official and nearly every lawyer here registered under the grandfather clause. In our constitution registration under section five was limited form May 16th 1898, until August 21, 1898. (The North Carolina amendment differs from the Louisiana amendment in that it lets men register until 1908). It cannot be said that no negro can register under the section for fourteen have registered under it in New Orleans.
“I am familiar with the conditions in the parish of Terrebonne which is my judicial district. Prior to the adoption of the constitutional amendment the negroes had a voting majority of about 500 or 600 out of about 4,500 voters. In the April elections only 44 negroes registered and the Democrats carried the parish by over 500 majority. The election was perfectly fair.”
Hon. Thos. Badeaux, a member of the constitutional convention from Lafourche, a leading lawyer who was connected with the school board on the return of the Democrats to power said: “The Democratic – the party of the white people – control Louisiana, and will do so for an hundred years to come. In the convention, Mr. Price, Judge Caillonett and myself stood earnestly for the grandfather clause because many illiterates had had no chance to go to school prior to 1876. Before that they were mixed public schools, and our people would not send their children to mixed public schools. In 1876, when the Democrats came back into power and began re-establishing schools, it was four or five years before they were on a good footing. We could not disfranchise men who had been good soldiers and who had not enjoyed an opportunity of securing an education. Only a day or two ago a good citizen of this parish, himself unable to read and write, donated a lot on which a public school is to be built. He wants his children educated. We did not deprive that intelligent citizen of his vote for he is registered under section five and his vote is guaranteed to him for life. There has been no complaint of the amendment. The negro is treated fairly, he has good schools, and we have the more honest and peaceful elections and primaries ever known.”
Sheriff Beary, whose acquaintance embraces every voter in the county said: “Nearly all the illiterate whites registered under section five though the Republicans tried to persuade them not to do so. There are 540 voters in ward five. About one half are illiterate, and yet less than twelve failed to register under the grandfather clause. The illiterates who registered (and that includes nearly all) are delighted with the amendment. Heretofore the negro vote could be handled. Under the amendment negroes who can vote cannot be handled. There was no opposition or intimidation used here. The negroes were deterred from registering for two reasons: 1. Because they knew they were in a hopeless minority: 2. Because Republican leaders and candidates were claiming to have a white man’s party and therefore could appeal to the negroes. They knew if the negroes registered and voted their ticket it would drive away white votes. These two things account for the fact that the negroes who can read and write took no interst in the election. You can tell the white people of North Carolina that the amendment will not deprive a single white man of his vote if he will register under section five. In the sixth ward along (everything here is a war and a ward in the country stands for a township) there are 176 white voters who registered under section five. They are pleased and you may say that the amendment here is a perfect success. The illiterate voter and the educated white voter are both perfectly satisfied.”
Mr. Price said: “The amendment has more than met public expectations. Our elections under it our closely contested and perfectly fair, white illiterates registered under section five and voted, few negroes vote, they are satisfied, and there is good feeling between the races. There has been no complaint whatever, no suggestion of fraud. It has mad the greatest difference in the elections. There was perfect quiet and a sharp contest at the election. The courts protect the negro fully, good schools are open to his children, the negroes work well, are doing well and are satisfied. There is not unkind feeling or prejudice between the races. The white people encourage the negro to advance in every material way, and help them to prosper, but are unwilling for them to rule.”
I could multiply this evidence indefinitely, but these statements will suffice. In the eighties the elections through all the country were attempted with great anxiety and now the amendment works like a charm. IN 1880 and along then a Republican represented this district in Congress and up to 1888 in some parishes a white could hardly press his way through the crowd of negros to vote. They were very obstreperous in some places. Now all that is changed. There is White Supremacy, clean government by white men, the negro is protected in all his rights, and Louisiana has rest from political turmoil that has retarded its development since 1868. Why should not North Carolina “go and do likewise?”
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