Suffrage Given to the Negro - Excitement Caused By the Assassination of President Lincoln

by C. E. Tibbles
Chapter XXXIV from Book of Letters: How to Make Best of Life vs. Woman Suffrage

Should the question of suffrage for the male negro be brought before the people of the United States today, in time of peace, it would without doubt, be overwhelmingly defeated. Surely so unless suffrage was restricted to those who had carried arms in the government's defense. Such were the requirements and qualifications for suffrage set forth in the letters of Abraham Lincoln. However, it is not surprising to those who lived in the United States from 1861 to 1869, that during those excitable times our people gave suffrage to the male negroes, which they would not have done in times of peace.

When the news of Abraham Lincoln's death was received by wire at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, I was stopping there at one of the hotels. Looking out of a window, I saw a large assembly of excited people gathering in the street, and wishing to know the cause of the excitement, I walked out and saw the citizens, old and young, weeping and moaning as though their hearts would break. Men with giant frames and stony faces were crying like babies. They seemed to be voluntarily gathering in and around the public square.

Upon inquiry, I was told that an old man of the town, a banker, said that it would have been better for this country had Lincoln died four years before his assassination. Upon this report being circulated through the mourning assembly, some excited men ran into a store and took a coil of rope from under the counter and carried it some distance to a frame house which they entered and searched. They found and seized the old man in his bed, to which he had fled for safety. While waiting for him to dress a contention arose, part of the mob demanding, "Hang him to a tree in the yard," while the other part wanted to make a public-exhibition by hanging him in the public square.

The mob finally decided to bang the old man in the public square near the Court House ' and led him to that place, but by the time they arrived, his friends had been notified and had collected there. They took hold of him, placed him in the center surrounding him from four to six deep, with their backs to him. They then begged for his life until the excitement had somewhat subsided, at which time the leaders of the mob agreed that if he would apologize from the bandstand they would, on account of his old age, pardon him, which was done.

I read in the newspapers many accounts of similar occurrences in many parts of the United States brought about by men criticizing Abraham Lincoln, and if I remember correctly, there were quite a number killed outright.

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln so aroused the people of the United States that this government was put in more real danger of destruction than it had ever been before. It was generally believed in the North that officials of the Confederate states had conspired to have Johnson, who was considered their tool, elected to the Vice-Presidency. Johnson was regarded a confederate at heart and many thought he had caused Abraham Lincoln to be assassinated; and that the government would be turned over to the Confederacy.

Former soldiers began once more to make preparations for war, every one looking to and relying upon Generals Grant, Sherman and Phil. Sheridan. The facts were that the safety of this government at that time rested in the hands of these three men. If either of them had chosen, Napoleon-like, to make himself a dictator or an emperor, the old army would have rallied to his support. Today, we the citizens of this country, may well give thanks to God for giving us three great generals who were honest and loyal to our government.

These conditions brought to the minds of the people the idea of giving the male negroes the right of suffrage, but the thought of giving suffrage to the female sex who could not and should not go into the fields of politics or battle, did not enter their minds.

I copy below excerpts from the book "Fifty Years of Public Service, Personal Recollections of Shelby M. Cullom, Senior United States Senator from Illinois."

"He (Johnson) came to the Presidency under the cloud of President Lincoln's assassination, when the majority of the North believed that a Southern conspiracy had laid the great President low."

"To express it in a word, the motive of the opposition to the Johnson plan of reconstruction was the firm conviction that its success would wreck the Republican party, and bring back Southern supremacy and Northern vassalage."

"I cannot undertake to go into all the long details of that memorable struggle. As I look back over the history of it now, it seems to me to bear a close resemblance to the beginning of the French Revolution, to the struggle between the States General of France and Louis XVI."

As we now look back over those tumultuous times, we know that the thoughts and acts of men were warped by undue excitement And nearly all of our great statesmen, including Senator Cullom, now think President Johnson was loyal to his country and that he was only attempting to do what he thought was right.

The suffrage was given to the negro as a War Measure in defense of the Union, and because the male negro could defend the government, thereby earning the right of suffrage, as set out in Lincoln's letter published in the following chapter.

The on-rushing events of those times were too exciting and turbulent for women to have endured and this country will, indeed, be fortunate if troubles equal to those of 1861-'69 do not visit us again before the lapse of as many years as we have been enjoying peace. And it is men's duty today to refuse women the suffrage, because they should be spared the trouble of such nerve-destroying difficulties.

If women had the suffrage and were actively engaged in politics, they would not be able to bear up and retain self-control under the excitement of an ordinary Presidential Campaign. This, no doubt, caused Abraham Lincoln to decline to offer the female sex suffrage at the time he wrote the following about the male negroes, "they have demonstrated in blood their right to the ballot." |