A free ballot and a fair count: the Department of Justice by Robert Goldman

By Robert Goldman

"A loose poll and a good count number" examines the efforts via the dept of Justice to enforce the federal laws glided by Congress in 1870-71 referred to as the Enforcement Acts. those legislation have been designed to implement the vote casting rights promises for African-Americans below the lately ratified 15th modification. The Enforcement Acts set forth various federally enforceable crimes geared toward scuffling with white southerners' makes an attempt to disclaim or limit black suffrage. There are a number of features of this paintings that distinguish it from different, previous works during this region. opposite to older interpretative reviews, Goldman's basic thesis is that, the federal government's makes an attempt to guard black vote casting rights within the South didn't stop with the preferrred Court's adversarial rulings in U.S. v. Reese and U.S. v. Cruikshank in 1875. Nor, it truly is argued, did enforcement efforts stop on the finish of Reconstruction and the so-called Compromise of 1877. quite, federal enforcement efforts after 1877 mirrored the ongoing dedication of Republican occasion leaders, for either humanitarian and partisan purposes, to what got here to be referred to as "the unfastened poll and a good count." one other distinct element of this publication is its concentrate on the function of the federal division of Justice and its officers within the South within the persevered enforcement attempt. Created as a cabinet-level government division in 1870, the Justice division proved ill-equipped to reply to the common criminal and extra-legal resistance to black suffrage by means of white southern Democrats within the years in the course of and after Reconstruction. the dep. confronted quite a few inner difficulties resembling inadequate assets, negative communications, and native body of workers usually appointed extra for his or her political acceptability than their prosecutorial or criminal abilities. via the early Eighteen Nineties, while the election legislation have been ultimately repealed by way of Congress, enforcement efforts have been sporadic at most sensible and mostly unsuccessful. the top of federal involvement, coupled with the wave of southern country structure revisions, led to the disfranchisement of the majority of African-American electorate within the South by means of the start of the 20 th Century. it's going to now not be till the Nineteen Sixties and the "Second Reconstruction" that the government, and the Justice division, could once more try to make sure the "free poll and a good count".

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Additional resources for A free ballot and a fair count: the Department of Justice and the enforcement of voting rights in the South, 1877-1893

Example text

The first and third ”prongs” took issue with the constitutionality of the entire Enforcement Act and with the right of Congress, through the Fifteenth Amendment, toregulate state elections. Both of these broad constitutional arguments were not used at all by Waite. The ”prong” that was incorporated into Waite’s opinion THE FIFTEENTH AMENDMENT 23 was the second, which contended that the two sections were too general and were not limited to actions based on racial discrimination. This was the narrowest argument presented, and further shows the limited character of the Reese decision.

There was no office staffto assist the attorney general, no system THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BEFORE 1877 29 of record keeping, and no provision for the preservation of letters and documents. Therewas nothing, in fact, to tell Wirt how past attorneys generalhad performed their duties, or to aid him in guiding future office holders in their activities. ”6 Attempting to bring some order to his office, Wirt secured from Congress authorization to hirea clerk to assist him in his duties, as well asa sum of money to be used for stationery and office expenses.

It follows that they are not good and sufficient in law. ” In the first instance only two sections out of a comprehensive body of prohibitory legislation THE FIFTEENTH AMENDMENT 17 were voided, and in the second case only the indictments based on other sections of the same legislation were dismissed by the Court. "38 That the Reese and Cruikshank decisions did leave intact congressional power to protect black voting rights in the South is evidenced by the fact that two months after the two decisions were handed down Congress repassed the two sections voided in Reese along with all of the other sections of the May 1870 Enforcement Act.

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