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"Read and Circulate!," 1872


"Read and Circulate!," 1872


Read and Circulate! was an article of campaign literature that brought attention to specific candidates in the election. More specifically Democratic candidates. This came after the first election after Governor W. W. Holden's impeachment at a time when Democrats brought charges amongst Holden as well as Republicans claimng corruption and at a time when Republicans were a weaker party. Campaign literature such as this was to illustrate that the Democrats were the corrupt ones. Their fellow white Conservatists were trying to railroad plans of Reconstruction. It was intended to most importantly illustrate that they did not have the citizens' best interests at heart, but rather their own social aims. The purpose of this piece is to make citizens aware of the people who they are voting for. Democrats gained political power of the state in 1870 after the electoral defeat of the Republicans. Campagin literature such as this were pleas to the voter to be responsible in their voting in a way of showing the downfalls of the opposing party.




"Read and Circulate!," Documenting the American South, accessed October 31, 2014,




Shanlyn Wagoner




North Carolina

Original Format




        Republican. Well, neighbor Democrat, how do you stand on politics now a days?

        Democrat. I am a Democrat still.

        R. Going to support the Democratic ticket and endorse the acts of the late Legislature, are you?

        D. Yes.

        R. Why?

        D. Because the members were economical, honest, and worked for the best interests of the State.

        R. Do you consider they were economical when they spent sixty-five thousand dollars to impeach Gov. Holden for trying to put down the Ku-Klux? or when they spent twenty thousand dollars in passing an unconstitutional convention bill to further their own selfish aims? or, in short, when they spent about the same per year for doing what they did, as the Republicans spent in putting the whole machinery of the State Government in operation?

        D. Well, but they cut down the salaries of officers.

        R. Yes, they cut down the salaries of Republican officers, but didn't they raise the salary of their Democratic Attorney General from $1,500 to $4,800? And is it not almost certain that if all the officers had been Democrats, the salaries of all would have been increased? 

        D. But they were honest, and there was no bribery and corruption among them like there was in the Legislature of 1868-'69.

        R. Let us see. In the Legislature of 1868-'69, your candidate for Congress in the 7th District, W. M. Robbins, took a lawyer's fee of twenty dollars; your candidate for Governor, A. S. Merrimon, drew the bills for Swepson that robbed the State of over ten millions of dollars; and the Sentinel, your State organ, was established with money furnished by this same Swepson, a Democrat. In the late Legislature Jo Turner overdrew about $3,000 for public printing and these honest (?) members smoothed it over and gave back the printing to him. They made large appropriations to the penitentiary and boasted of it, but when the matter was investigated the convicts were starving and these large appropriations had gone into the pockets of the Rottenfish Directory. The members of the late Legislature were not more honest than those of the one in 1868-'69; but they were shrewder, all hung together and plundered the people by discussing and considering unimportant or selfish measures.

        D. But, neighbor, they did work hard for the best interests of the citizens of the State.

        R. I don't think that the extravagance and corruption of which I have shown they were guilty did a great deal for the best interests of the State. Then glance at their laws. Nineteen-twentieths of their acts are incorporations, and in reality private acts, one half of which are not valid. They refused to allow the people the right of petition; trampled the Constitution under foot and made offices for their dirt-slingers; attempted to pardon the Ku-Klux criminals; gerrymandered the State so as to virtually disfranchise twenty thousand voters; passed an unjust and arbitrary election law; repealed the act that allowed a man to defend himself against disguised midnight assassins; incited criminals to swear to lies; and submit good and obnoxious amendments together to the people for ratification, with the alternative--all or none. If you call extravagance and corruption, denying the right of petition and totally disregarding the Constitution--those only safe guards of the people--and apologizing for, shielding, and giving free license to the Ku-Klux, those midnight murderers that have made the South almost an earthly hell, "working hard for the best interests of the State," the late Legislature has done it to perfection.

        D. Well, neighbor Republican, if they did all that you say, they didn't do as well as I thought they had done; but, you see, they are more honorable men than Republicans.

        R. What I have stated they did, I can prove by the journals and public records. And as to their being "more honorable men than Republicans" we will go back for a minute to the convention contest last summer and examine a little. The Republicans were never charged of being known liars and perjured villains, were they?

        D. Not that I heard of.

        R. Well, didn't the members of the late Legislature tell the people that unless the convention was called, the tax to pay the interest on the public debt would be levied, and the tax being eight dollars where it had formerly been one dollar, the homesteads would be sold.

        D. Yes, they did.

        R. Well, the convention was not called, the tax was not levied, the homesteads were not sold, and are not they--these honorable men, members of the late Legislature--most infamous liars?

        D. A-h-e-m, they didn't tell the truth square out.

        R. Didn't they say, too, "if the convention is not called we must either levy that tax or resign, or be perjured villains?"

        D. I believe they did say so.

        R. How then can you, an honest farmer, support and endorse the members of the late Legislature that were extravagant, corrupt, bitterly partizan, that denied to the people the great right of petition, usurped numerous unguaranteed powers, attempted to trample down the Constitution, disfranchised citizens to secure their own selfish aims, placed arbitrary restrictions upon the voters of the State, shielded and legislated for Ku-Klux murderers, and who, by their own evidence and confessions, are infamous liars and perjured villains?

        D. Well, neighbor Republican, you see I never studied about nor examined these matters much, but I tell you they must clear up all of these things before the election or I cannot go for them.

        R. You and every other farmer ought to study the acts of your representatives. I want you to examine into what I have said. You can find the documents at the Clerk's office. The fact is I want to talk with you a great deal before the election. You and I are common farmers. We and all others of our class are honest. The leaders are the ones that are dishonest and selfish. We being honest and desirous of our welfare, which is most certainly the welfare of the State, should examine the principles of the two parties, the characters of their leaders, and determine which is more favorable to our rights and interests. I think I can prove to you from authentic records that the Republican party is the only party that has ever taken a deep interest in the welfare, education, and promotion of the masses--the only one that has ever punished public criminals and cast them aside--and the only one that chooses for its leaders the best, purest, and ablest of its members. Good-day! I hope to see you again soon.

        D. Good-day!



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Unknown, "Read and Circulate!," 1872, Civil War Era NC, accessed April 14, 2024,