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The Southern States of America
Chapter II - Mississippi A State in the Union, 1817 - 1861


The Constitutional Convention of 1817 and Organization of State Government.

After much discussion, extending over a period of seven years, the movement for the admission of Mississippi territory as a state into the Union was successful. The Congress of the United States in the Georgia settlement had provided "that the territory thus ceded shall form a state, and be admitted as such in the Union as soon as it shall contain sixty thousand free inhabitants, or at an earlier period if Congress shall think it expedient." After the census of 1810, which gave the territory a population of forty thousand, both free and slave, the people grew restive under the territorial status. The desire, however, on their part to procure statehood was not caused by the anxiety to maintain a balance of power in the National Congress which was felt by political leaders in the admission of a new state into the Union. As yet, they were almost wholly unacquainted with political values, and were conscious of only that degree of nationality which made them desirous of sharing in every privilege granted by the constitution. The same ideal of personal liberty and equal opportunity that had taken possession of the minds of the people of the older communities had fixed itself in their thought and aspiration; and here upon this far outpost of American-Anglo-Saxon civilization a social organism was beginning to establish itself such as was found in the mother colonies. They styled themselves-and they were for the most part-the legitimate offspring of Seventy-six. Though the section had taken no part in the War for Independence, many of the inhabitants, as citizens of other states, had seen honorable service in that war. Having, however, as a community, been an active participant in the War of 1812, and having shared with distinguished honors in Jackson's victories, they took no small credit to themselves for the successful termination of this second war for independence. Their ambition for statehood manifested itself in numerous resolutions passed by the people, and in memorials of the General Assembly to Congress, seeking admission into the Union. These efforts were sedulously continued in spite of the fact that the number of the state's white population hardly justified the demand, and their unwearying perseverance would have gained admission earlier had not a conflict arisen among the people themselves over the question as to whether Mississippi territory should form one state or two. The majority of the people wanted one, but finally acquiesced in the decision of Congress, which provided for one state and a territory.

The enabling act, which was signed by President Madison March 1, 1817, empowered the people of the western part of Mississippi territory to form a constitution and state government, and provided for the admission of such state into the Union on an equal footing with the original states. The boundary clause of the enabling act embraces the following described territory: "Beginning on the river Mississippi at the point where the southern boundary line of the state of Tennessee strikes the same, thence east along the said boundary line to the Tennessee River, thence up the same to the mouth of Bear Creek, thence by direct line to the northwest corner of the county of Washington, thence due south to the Gulf of Mexico, thence westwardly, including all the islands within six leagues of the shore, to the most eastern junction of Pearl River with Lake Borgne, thence up said river to the thirtyfirst degree of north latitude, thence west along the said degree of latitude to the Mississippi River, thence up the same to the beginning."

The act of Congress apportioned the representatives among the counties, fixed the day of election on the first Monday and Tuesday in June, 1817, and provided that the convention should meet at the town of Washington, the seat of government of the territory, on the first Monday in July. An election was held throughout the fourteen counties and resulted in the selection of forty-seven delegates.

The constitutional convention of the western part of the Mississippi territory met at the town of Washington on July 7, 1817. The meetings were held in the Methodist church, erected in 1805 the fruits of a religious revival conducted by Lorenzo Dow, the New England itinerant.

The convention organized by electing Governor David Holmes president and Louis Wiston secretary. On July 10 a committee of twenty was appointed to draft a constitution. The new constitution, however, was mainly the work of the chairman, George Poindexter, an able lawyer who, like so many of his profession, was attracted to the rich section and soon became a factor in its development.

Under the provisions of the constitution the executive power was vested in a governor, elected by qualified electors for a term of two years, only freeholders being eligible; the legislative power was vested in two branches, one to be styled the Senate, the other the House of Representatives, and both together the General Assembly, and it was provided that only free-holders could be members of the Assembly; the judicial power was vested in one Supreme Court and a superior court, the last to be held in each county at least twice during the year by a judge of the Supreme Court elected for the district. The judges were elected by the General Assembly, and held office during good behavior up to the age of sixty-five years. Provision was also made for the establishment of a court or courts of chancery, courts of probate and justices' courts. The suffrage clause provided that every free white male of the age of twenty-one years and upwards, who was a citizen of the United States and had resided in the state one year preceding an election, and the last six months within the county, city or town in which he offered to vote, and was enrolled in the militia thereof, except when exempted by law from military service, or, having the aforesaid qualifications of citizenship and residence, had paid a state or county tax-was deemed a qualified elector.

A difficult question for the convention to settle was the site for the state capital; Natchez was strongly supported, but could not muster sufficient votes to secure it. The convention avoided the question by requiring that the first session of the General Assembly be held in Natchez, and thereafter at such place as might be directed by law. The name which the new state was to bear was also the subject of considerable controversy. The committee reported in favor of the name Mississippi. When the preamble came up for adoption, Cowles Mead moved to strike out the word Mississippi and insert in lieu thereof the word Washington, but the motion was lost by a vote of seventeen for Washington and twenty-three for Mississippi. The cost of the convention was $9,703.98, and $100.00 was paid for the use of the little brick church.

Under the provisions of the schedule adopted by the constitutional convention, Governor Holmes issued writs for an election to be held in each county. The state officials selected at this election were David Holmes, governor, and Duncan Stewart, lieutenant-governor. The members of the General Assembly were also elected, and George Poindexter was selected to represent the state in the House of Representatives.

At the time fixed for the first meeting of the General Assembly at Natchez, yellow fever prevailed there, and Governor Holmes issued a proclamation calling the session at Washington. The body convened Oct. 6, 1817; on the following day the election returns were canvassed, and Governor Holmes was inaugurated in the presence of both Houses. The constitution having provided for the election of all state officers except the governor and lieutenant-governor, the following officers were elected: Daniel Williams, secretary of state; Lyman Harding, attorney-general; Samuel Brooks, treasurer, and John R. Girault, auditor. On October 9 the Assembly elected Walter Leake and Thomas H. Williams United States senators, and on the same day adjourned on account of disturbed conditions growing out of the continued spread of yellow fever.

On December 8 the General Assembly met at Natchez at the house of Edward Turner. In making up the committees Edward Turner, Charles B. Green and Harman Runnels were entrusted with the organization of the judicial system, Joseph Sessions, George H. Nixon and John Joor with the militia, and Philander Smith, John Joor, George H. Nixon, George B. Dameron and Henry G. Johnston with the finances.

The young commonwealth had lost no time in placing itself in readiness for statehood, and when Congress met in December a resolution admitting the state of Mississippi into the Union was passed by the Senate and House, and was signed by President Monroe December 10, 1817. The resolution which made the new state a member of the American Union was reported by James Barbour, a senator from Virginia, and was in the following words: "Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the State of Mississippi shall be one, and is hereby declared to be one, of the United States of America, and admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original states in all respects whatever."

And thus, shed from the great mass of Anglo-Saxon civilization in America, this handful of society began to assume a distinct social and political organization that was destined to share in the future history of the American nation. It had outstripped and displaced two valiant nations; had conquered the wilderness infested with wild beasts and reeking with deadly malaria; and at the same time was domesticating one savage race—a herculean task for which it has never received proper credit—while it contended with another that would not be domesticated. Nothing withstood its onward march, and everything for which men contended passed into its keeping. So strong was its breed that a mere handful of people scattered upon isolated spots was sufficient to develop a thriving social organism which, while it differed somewhat in minor points, retained, as a whole, an unchangeable likeness to the parent stock.

Pioneer Statehood, 1817-1832.

In passing from the territorial to the state form of government, the authority of the chief executive had been greatly curtailed. He no longer had the appointment of officers from justice of the peace to treasurer-general, and his authority comprehended little more than a participation in legislation, and the right to extend pardon to offenders against the penal laws. The General Assembly, however, had large powers conferred upon it, which was only a shifting of excessive authority from one branch of government to another, an error which the people afterwards realized and corrected.

Administration of Governor Holmes.

The territorial administration of Governor Holmes, covering over eight years, had been a period of steady growth and advancement; the population had grown from 40,352 in 1810 to 73,000 in 1817, and agricultural interests were taking a firm hold. The emigration to the state about this time was largely  from Virginia and the Carolinas ; Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee furnished many settlers, and to this was added a sprinkling of emigration from Pennsylvania, New York and the New England states, much heavier than is commonly supposed. Of foreign-born population there had never been a large influx, and though this continued to be the condition and accounts for the uniform Anglo-Saxon type among the people, it is worthy of note that just prior to the War of Secession the foreign-born population was larger than it was forty years after the war. What weight this fact would have in a discussion of the relative economic growth of the two periods has yet to be determined.

During the first years of statehood the subject which commanded the attention of the governor most was internal improvement. He appreciated the value of transportation in the development of a new country and wrote to William H. Crawford in 1818 that the Pearl River, the Pascagoula, Chickasawhay, Leaf, Big Black, Yazoo, Homochitto and Bayou Pierre were susceptible of improvement for navigation, and that the improvement of three important roads was in contemplation; one leading from Natchez to Washington, one to St. Stevens and one to Madisonville on Lake Pontchartrain.

It was during this early period of the state's existence that the Elizabeth Female Academy was established. It was located near the town of Washington, February, 1818, being the first chartered institution for the higher education of young women in the United States. Jefferson College, a school for young men, had been established by the legislature of the Mississippi territory in 1803 at the territorial seat of government. Thus we find the state at a very early period of its existence provided with two colleges.

Administration of Governor Poindexter.

In January, 1820, Governor Holmes was succeeded by George Poindexter. The new chief executive had been prominent in public affairs since 1803, and was the admitted leader of the Jefferson Republicans of Mississippi. Soon after his inauguration Governor Poindexter sent a special message to the General Assembly, recommending "a general revision and consolidation of the statutes"; he also urged the establishment of better schools to be supported by a public fund, which was an advanced position for the state along educational lines. The governor's policy in reference to public schools, however, was not carried out, and it was some time before the state had any definite legislation upon the subject of the general education of the people.

The important events of 1820 in Mississippi were the survey of the Alabama line, the United States census, which showed that the population had increased to 75,000, and the Choctaw Treaty of Doak's Stand, which opened up 5,500,000 acres of fertile land for settlement, this being one of a series of treaties by which the Indians of the state were outwitted in the disposition of their lands.

The most exciting political question in Mississippi at this time, as elsewhere, was the admission of Missouri into the Union. The status of slavery in the state was the same as that of the other southern states ; the people believed that slaves were recognized forms of property, and felt that their owners should not be discriminated against on account of being slaveholders in the settlement and development of new territory. There had been at an early period of the state's history grave doubts as to the wisdom of permitting great numbers of savages, many of whom represented the worst element of their race, to be brought into the state, and several of the territorial governors had impugned the practice. There had also been, from time to time, prohibitory legislation against slaves being brought to the state as merchandise; but, though the traffic was generally considered to be an odious one and beneath the calling of a gentleman, the ethical side of the question had never seriously presented itself to the minds of the people, and they could neither understand nor appreciate the constant interference of Northern abolitionists in the matter.

Such a marked improvement was evident in the condition of these savage people in their domestication among the better white classes, that the latter were wholly unconscious of any desire upon their part to abridge a single liberty belonging to any person, white or black, that they themselves enjoyed. If the ethical side of the question was of any moment at all, it rested in the fact that the negroes were regarded as an ignorant, helpless race, totally unfit to be thrown upon its own resources, and really needing the supervision and protection of the white race. As an economic question, slavery had fixed itself in the life of the people. The Indian had proven a failure as a domestic; the country, in its virgin state, could hope for nothing but agricultural development for many years; the owners of the land were descended from a race who had inherited from their English ancestors a love of the land, and a strong desire to possess it, and no other people fitted so well in the industrial life as these simple black folk, who withstood the heat and malaria, and yielded readily to domestication. Long and close association with the white race had its civilizing effect upon the negroes, and it was not long before the two races became warmly attached, both alike manifesting a keen interest in the other's welfare. Thus as economic interests had fixed the system in the laws of the people, the domestication of the race fixed it in their hearts. The abolitionist was right in his position on the ethics of slavery, but more than benighted in his conception of its condition in the South. Forever opposed to the old rehabilitated story of a people being required to "make bricks without straw," is the truth of the love and fidelity that existed between master and slave.

It was about this time that the banking system of the state began to receive some adverse criticism. In 1809 the Territorial Assembly passed an act for the establishment of the Mississippi Bank with a capital stock of $500,000, and in 1818 the State Assembly passed a supplemental act which gave the bank exclusive privileges, also pledging itself not to allow the establishment of another bank before Dec. 31, 1840. In his message of 1821 Governor Poindexter made a strong attack on the Mississippi Bank, saying that by the act above noted exclusive privileges had been secured to a corporate body, without an equivalent to the state, until the year 1840. The inability of the bank, however, to meet the demands of the state for increased banking facilities caused the legislature later to ignore its pledge, and incorporate a new institution known as the Planters' Bank of Mississippi. In this brief outline of the state's history there is no room for a lengthy discussion of its banking system, but it may be of interest to note that for twenty years during this period of state growth, its politics revolved around its banking interests.

In 1821 the General Assembly of Mississippi passed an act authorizing the governor to codify the laws of the state. This blending of the duties of the executive and judicial departments was the subject of a protest signed by a minority of the Senate. At this same session of the Assembly an act was passed appointing a commission to select a site for the seat of government near the centre of the state within the recent Choctaw purchase. The site was selected Nov. 28, 1821, and was called Jackson, in honor of Gen. Andrew Jackson, with whom the people had many tastes in common. With the opening of the new Choctaw purchase and the location of the seat of government, a steady growth and wholesome industrial development set in.

Administration of Governor Leake.

Walter Leake, an able man and a native of Virginia, succeeded Governor Poindexter, and followed in his administration the policy of internal improvement that had been pursued by his predecessors. The General Assembly met for the first time in the new capital in the small two-story state house which had been provided at a cost of $3,000. Appropriations were made for the improvement of the Pearl and Big Black rivers, and roads were laid out connecting the various settlements with the seat of government; new farm lands were cleared, county seats and towns located in the New Purchase, and the diffusion of population became greater than at any, previous time.

Governors Brandon and Holmes.

Gerard C. Brandon, who, upon the death of Governor Leake, exercised the powers of governor until Jan. 7, 1826, called the attention of the people to renewed efforts in internal improvements, and in his first message took occasion to say that "In every public institution, the stock of which is calculated to produce a revenue, it appears to me the state should be the principal concerned. By this policy she might, in a few years, have an overflowing treasury." Thus it is seen that there was a constant effort on the part of both the people and the public officials to develop the state along substantial lines.

In 1826 David Holmes was again called to the office of chief executive. The expenditures had exceeded the receipts and the new administration faced a deficit of $41,000, made up of $21,000 due the bank, and $12,000 for claims of state warrants. To meet the deficit it was necessary to revise the revenue system, and a heavy increase in all taxation was made.

In the summer of 1826 Governor Holmes, on account of failing health, resigned, and Lieutenant-governor Brandon again assumed the duties of governor. After filling out the unexpired term of Governor Holmes, he was elected to the office by the people in 1827.

On Jan. 20, 1828, General Jackson, then a candidate for President, visited the capital, arousing great enthusiasm among the people. In the following November the electoral vote of Mississippi was cast for Jackson and Calhoun. Beginning with this period a great Democratic revival set in which found expression in Mississippi in a popular demand for radical changes in the organic law.

At this time the state's finances were in a healthy condition, the receipts being far in advance of the expenditures. The fertile land opened for settlement attracted the attention of the people of the older Southern states, and a large immigration flowed into the northern districts, made up mainly of thrifty families of Anglo-Saxon stock. In the counties first settled the people had already assumed the social position held by the best circles of the older states, and these counties furnished the state most of its distinguished men. Though not at close range, they felt perceptibly the influence of the wave of intellectual activity that about this time swept over English-speaking nations. The new states, especially those of the lower South, modeled themselves upon the plan of the older communities, and in this way American civilization was kept uniform, the commonwealths growing, with slight differences, into one people with the same ideals and aspirations.

It is true that the struggles incident to pioneer life and the almost unbridled form of Democracy taught by Jackson, coupled with the old-world custom of dueling, and the prevailing habit of indulging in strong drink, had somewhat coarsened the fibre of the people, but notwithstanding all this the highest religious and political ideals were held and woman was regarded with the deepest reverence. The best English literature was found in the home, and the conversation and public addresses of the people were ornate with quotations from the classics. The intelligent Englishman traveling through the older counties would have instantly recognized the kinship of the inhabitants with the best classes of his own country. Unlike the people of the West, in whose dreary isolation Dickens imagined that he foresaw a situation that could never be altered, these were of a more aspiring strain, retaining to a large extent their ancestral characteristics and leanings, and exhibiting, in their manner, an air of superiority that characterized the English gentry.

There was a ruder and simpler class dwelling among the state's population, especially in the outlying districts, but they, too, had caught something of the spirit of the older communities, and although they were rude and unlearned they were keen to see their own interests, and were demanding for themselves every blessing that Democracy accorded to the more privileged classes.

The Democratic Movement and the Constitutional Convention of 1832.

The demand for a constitutional convention had been gathering force for several years previous to 1832. The movement for a convention was simply a natural demand by the majority for greater powers of self-government. Like all state constitutions made before 1800, the first constitution of Mississippi was somewhat aristocratic in its tendency. There was now an irresistible trend of the people of the entire country in the other direction. Andrew Jackson had been elected to the presidency. A reform bill had been forced through the British Parliament by the strength of the popular demand for a larger share in the government. The people were coming into greater control everywhere.

The General Assembly submitted the question of a constitutional convention to a vote of the people. The election was held in August, 1831, and was carried by the advocates of a convention. At the next session of the General Assembly on Dec. 16, 1831, an act was passed providing for the election of delegates in August, 1832, to a convention to meet in Jackson on the second Monday of September, 1832. Abram M. Scott had succeeded Gerard C. Brandon as governor, and he was in sympathy with the movement for a convention.

The issues in the campaign put forward by the friends of the convention were : manhood suffrage, ad valorem taxes, limited term of office, election of all officers, executive, legislative, judicial and military, by the people, separate judges for circuit and supreme courts, a legislature once in two years, no dominant church and free public schools with the funds distributed impartially for the benefit of the common people. The convention met in the little brick state house at Jackson on Monday, Sept. 10, 1832, and organized by the election of P. Rutilius R. Pray, a native of Maine, president, and John H. Mallory, secretary.

There were forty-seven delegates in the convention, and the majority favored radical changes in the constitution of 1817. A distinct cleavage existed between the radical and conservative elements. As a rule, the radicals represented the new counties and the conservatives the old. The new counties wanted enlarged self-government ; the older counties clung steadfastly to the ideals of the past.

It was soon evident that the majority would not compromise and had determined to push popular rights to the highest point yet attained. The spirit of the convention was soon made known by the report of the committee on bill of rights. That advised: That there should be no property qualification for suffrage or public office; that the people were capable of self-government and of electing their own officers, and ought to exercise this right directly through the ballot-box in all cases where they can with advantage and convenience do so, and that whenever the people delegate this inestimable power the reason and necessity for so doing shall be strong and imperative; that to preserve the principle of rotation in office and prevent officeholders from becoming oppressive or unmindful of their duty as public servants, no office should be held during life or good behavior; that no person should hold more than one office at the same time; that the executive, judicial and legislative powers should be strictly separate, and that monopolies are odious and contrary to the spirit of free government and ought not to be suffered in any case whatever.

The convention was in session forty-six days, and adopted a new constitution Friday, Oct. 26, 1832. In commenting on this constitution Governor Scott took an enthusiastic view of the future under its provisions; he said that its adoption marked the new era of "a new term of political existence, unshackled by the prejudices, errors and forms which in old communities, sanctified by time and strengthened by habit, too often acquire the force and energy of nature," and his words expressed the opinion of the people.

A brief survey of the provisions of the constitution of 1832 will show its pioneer character. The chief executive power was vested in a governor chosen (by qualified electors) for two years, and ineligible to office for more than four years in any term of six. Other state officials were elected for two years, except the attorney-general, whose term was four years. The legislative power was vested in a Senate and House of Representatives. Members of the lower house were chosen every two years, during the first week in November; their number could not be less than thirty-six nor more than one hundred. The senators were chosen for four years (one-half biennially), and their number could not be less than one-fourth nor more than one-third the number of representatives.

The judicial power was vested in a High Court of Errors and Appeals, consisting of three judges chosen by the electors, one elected each two years from each of the three districts into which the state was divided, for a term of six years; in a Circuit Court held in each county at least twice each year, its judges chosen for four years; in a Superior Court of Chancery, the chancellor elected on a state ticket for a term of six years; in a Court of Probate, its judges chosen in each county for two years, and a county board of police elected for two years. No life offices were permitted.

All white males, twenty-one years old and upwards, and citizens of the United States, were qualified electors. Residence in the state for one year next preceding election, and four months in county, city or town was required. All elections were to be held by ballot.

It will be noted that novel doctrines had been infused into the constitution. For the first time in the state's history no restriction was placed on popular suffrage, and for the first time in any state the principle of popular election was applied to the judiciary. The old aristocratic tendencies of the Revolutionary era, which controlled in the making of the constitutions of the original thirteen states, had given way before the new democracy of the South and West. The new state of Mississippi had set an example of popular rights which was to exert a powerful influence on her sister states.

The Growth of the State, 1832-1861.

In 1832, under the terms of the Treaty of Pontotoc made with the Chickasaw Indians, 6,283,804 acres were added to the public domain. This immense territory, comprising the entire northern part of the state, was divided into twelve counties.

The economic condition of the state, at the beginning of 1833, was excellent. The rapid emigration of the Choctaws to the territory west of the Mississippi left the people in almost undivided possession of an immense area of rich farming lands, which were being rapidly taken up by actual settlers. The prosperity of the people was shown in the condition of state finances. The receipts from November 1831 to January 1833, were $106,000; expenditures, $91,000.

The legislature authorized the sale of bonds to the amount of $1,500,000 for the basis of additional currency to be issued by the Planters' Bank, the idea being that the great prosperity of the state would make the payment of the bonds easy out of the bank profits.

In the field of politics the two great subjects of controversy were the protective tariff and nullification ; these two questions occupied the attention of the legislature at the January session of 1833 to a considerable extent. The Democrats opposed the tariff and were generally with Jackson in his course toward nullification; the Whigs favored a protective tariff and also opposed nullification.

In 1831 the legislature chartered a company to build a railroad from Woodville, Miss., to St. Francisville, La., and other companies were chartered during the next six years. In 1837 about seven hundred men were employed in the construction of the Woodville & St. Francisville road, which was to be twenty-nine miles long. On the Natchez-Jackson railroad hundreds of men were at work between Natchez and Washington, and trains were running between the two places in May, 1837.

From 1832 to 1837 was a period of speculation and rapid development. The credit of the state and of individuals was being strained to the breaking-point. Everybody seemed to be growing rich and there was no thought of danger. The bonds of the state were quoted in London at a large premium, and the general belief was that they were as good as, if not better than, gold.

The year 1836 is often referred to by historians as "the most prosperous year in the history of the state," but the flush times were largely speculative and fictitious. A period of real prosperity had caused overtrading and too much stretching of credit. The state had fed the fever with extravagant issues of bonds, the people incurred debts which they could not pay, and financial ruin was inevitable.

The financial crisis came in the spring of 1837, and the state met the emergency by passing the "Post Note" law, authorizing the banks to issue notes payable in thirteen months at 6 per cent. interest, which should be receivable for taxes and all public dues, and by chartering the Union Bank. These measures, however, served only to increase the general distress.

It was in these years that the state, through the Planters' and Union banks, piled up the indebtedness which was afterwards repudiated.

The state census of 1837 showed a total white population of 144,351; slaves, 164,393. Acres of land in cultivation, 1,048,530; number of bales of cotton produced, 317,783. The white population of the larger towns were: Natchez, 3,731; Vicksburg, 2,796; Columbus, 1,448; Jackson, 529; Clinton, 613; Grand Gulf, 490. Port Gibson, Woodville and Grenada were the only other towns having over 400 whites.

The dominant leader in state affairs during. its time of financial distress was Alexander Gallatin McNutt, who was elected governor in 1837 as an anti-bank candidate. His crusade against the banks was just, but his zeal led the state into repudiation.

The state was a large stockholder in the Union and Planter's banks, and was the guarantor of their notes. It is evident that the state was the victim of dishonest and corrupt methods in the management of the banks. There can be no doubt, however, that repudiation was wrong and that a compromise settlement should have been made with the innocent holders of the state's bonds.

In 1844 better conditions returned. In his message to the legislature of 1846, Gov. A. G. Brown said: "The past two years have presented a period of very general prosperity. Farming lands have improved in value." There had been a large influx of very desirable immigrants into the "Chickasaw Purchase," and all forms of industry had brought good returns.

Up to this time little attention had been paid to the education of the children of the state at public expense. There was no public school system worthy of the name, and no provision had been made for a state university. Governor Brown made an investigation of educational conditions, and on this based a message to the legislature urging appropriations for public schools. A state university was chartered in 1844, and its doors were opened for students Nov. 6, 1848. This was the beginning of an institution which has since maintained the highest educational standard.

In April and May, 1846, there was great excitement in Mississippi over the war with Mexico; and volunteer companies were drilling in the streets of scores of towns in the state. Two regiments and one battalion of riflemen were furnished by Mississippi to the armies of the United States, and Jefferson Davis and John A. Quitman made national reputations as leaders under Taylor and Scott. Taylor's army was saved from defeat at Buena Vista by the gallantry of Mississippians under command of Jefferson Davis, and Mississippi troops in Quitman's 'brigade raised the first American flag over the captured City of Mexico.

The years 1847-50 were marked by great prosperity in Mississippi, caused by the successful termination of the Mexican War, the addition of new territory to the Union and the discovery of gold in California. All these things stimulated good feeling and a hopeful view of the future. The prairie and bottom lands of the state brought seventy-five and eighty dollars an acre. The crops of cotton and corn were large, and the farmers raised great quantities of cattle, horses and hogs.

National politics, as influenced by the large acquisition of territory from Mexico, filled the minds of the people during the administration of Governor Matthews, 1848-50. On the question of the admission of slavery into the newly acquired territory, they took the stand that it was the common property of the United States, and to prohibit the citizens of one portion of the Union from inhabiting such territory with their slaves would be a palpable violation of that clause of the constitution which provides that citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states. They contended that slaveholders should have equal rights with non-slaveholders in the settlement of the territories.

The inauguration of Gen. John Anthony Quitman, one of the heroes of the war with Mexico, as governor, Jan. 10, 1850, was attended with all the military display thought to be necessary for the occasion. He was one of the most extreme State's Rights Democrats in public life, and his administration was marked by an intense agitation of questions growing out of the Compromise of 1850.

An act of Congress of far-reaching importance to Mississippi was passed Sept. 28, 1850, under the terms of which the state was granted all swamp and overflowed lands for the purpose of building a levee system for protection against the overflow of the Mississippi River. This legislation was the beginning of a levee system, kept up at public expense, which has opened up for cultivation 4,250,000 acres of the richest cotton land in the world.

The period 1854-58 was memorable for industrial growth and development. It was at this time that the state extended substantial aid to the building of railroads. In 1854 the legislature passed an act authorizing the state to take $300,000 stock in railroads. Levee protection having become assured, immense cotton plantations were opened up in the river counties, which only a few years before had been considered hopelessly unavailable.

The economic growth of the state during this particular period was of that sound, healthy nature that indicated great progress in the future in every direction, and gives rise to the question as to whether slavery, from a purely economic standpoint, would have proved a failure in the South or not. But already forces were at work to relieve the democratic institutions of the country of this paradoxical condition. From a matter of social reform it urged its way into national politics, and met with as bitter opposition in one channel as in the other. By the abolitionist it was condemned because of its contrariety to the law of humanity; as a political question it involved rights granted in the constitution, a betrayal of which was not thought possible by the Southern people. Mississippi was central ground, if not the storm centre, of the controversy, and the decade of 1850-60 was a time of earnest discussion of sectional questions affecting the political, industrial and social life of the state.

The people of Mississippi have always adhered to the early interpretation of the constitution, which was accepted by the New England, as well as the Southern, school of construction. When the constitution was adopted by the various states there was little difference of opinion as to their rights under its provisions. The New England position was clearly indicated by its attitude on the Louisiana Purchase, which caused its public men to advocate secession ; and on the embargo laid upon shipping by the National government in 1808, when the people declared it unconstitutional and refused to enforce it; Gen. Benjamin Lincoln going so far as to resign his office as collector of the port of Boston, rather than incur the odium of enforcing the law. The position of New England was shown again in 1812, when Massachusetts and Connecticut openly defied the President when he made a requisition on their governors for the use of the militia of those states within their borders. In both states nullification and secession were advocated by those in authority.

The Southern position was given in the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions of 1798, which contained the ideas of Jefferson and Madison; by the action of Georgia in 1828-30, when that state refused to obey an act of Congress concerning the Cherokee Indians, and again in 1832, when South Carolina declared an act of Congress null and void and was ready to secede if necessary.

It was natural for New England to rebel against the Louisiana Purchase and the Embargo, because both were against her welfare and bore heavily upon the political and economic interests of her people ; for the same reason South Carolina was consistent when she resisted a national law which operated oppressively upon her economic well-being. These incidents serve to show that both New England and the South believed in the right of secession, and both were willing to exercise it under certain conditions.

In the course of time as the country developed, the interests of the North and South became widely separated by the growth of economic and social differences. Both sections used slave labor in the beginning, but owing to climatic conditions in the North it did not pay there and was abandoned; in the South it succeeded, and was believed to be necessary to the economic development of the country. The accumulated wealth of the Southern states was bound up in slaves; this species of property had been recognized and protected by the organic law of the land, and any attack upon it was regarded as an infringement on state rights and an assault on the rights of property.

The difference in the system of labor, North and South, caused an economic conflict between the sections. The people of the South believed that their civilization and enormous agricultural interests depended upon the perpetuation of slavery, and that it should not be subjected to outside interference ; and when many of the states of the North openly nullified the national fugitive slave laws, incited the slaves to insurrection, called the constitution "a league with death and a covenant with hell" and burned it in the streets, they began to believe that their political and property rights were in danger.

Mississippi, as a typical Southern state, was slow to believe that it was the ultimate policy of the Northern states to interfere in the domestic and economic affairs of the South. From 1820 to 1859 the great majority of the leaders counseled a patient-waiting policy; both Democrats and Whigs adopted that course, and very few were advocates of secession during that time.

A discussion of the policies of state leaders and of political parties is continued in this article under the heading "State Politics and Party Leaders, 1817-1861."

Economic, Social and Educational Conditions, 1850-1861.

By the year 1850 the pioneer period of statehood had been passed. The entire territory of the state had been practically abandoned by the Indians, county government had been established every- where, the rude log cabin had given place to the handsome home of colonial architecture, and the forest had given way to the cotton plantation.

Economic Conditions.

The economic basis of the state was agriculture ; cotton was the chief product and the great wealth producer. In the wealthy counties, where the lands were most productive and profitable, slave labor largely predominated; in many of the upland counties where the lands were not so rich the small farmer tilled his own soil, which he could do with greater profit than with slave labor.

As the profits from agriculture increased, the demand for labor increased also; the profits from the farms were then invested in slaves brought from Virginia and the Carolinas. Under these conditions the evolution of the cotton plantation was simple. As lands were cheap and to be had in the uncleared forest on credit, or for a very small outlay, the young farmer would begin his operations with a few hundred acres of wild land and a half dozen negroes. In a few years the plantation would be cleared of trees and undergrowth, and its cultivation yielding large profits. These profits were invested in more land and negroes year by year, until large wealth came to the owner. To buy land for the production of cotton and to put the profits in more land and negroes was the simple formula by which the Mississippi planter grew opulent. The profits from a New England farm by the best possible management were three or four per cent.; the Southern planter made from 15 to 30 per cent.

It was natural that the state should be devoted almost entirely to agriculture, as the returns were good and the lands plentiful. The state was growing rich through the cultivation of the soil, and it was not strange that its people did not take up manufacturing, a line of industry which is never established in the first years of the development of an agricultural section.

The idea of the planters, who largely formed public opinion and policies, was to make Mississippi an immense plantation for the cultivation of cotton. The growth of food crops was frequently abandoned by planters living near the large water-courses, corn and hogs being supplied to them by the farmers of Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana, who shipped their produce down the Mississippi River. This policy, however, was not pursued by all. There were many planters, whose purpose was to make their plantations industrial units, as independent as possible of outside sources of supply. The best regulated plantations not only made all necessary food supplies, but kept up little centres of industry for the manufacture of clothing, shoes and hats, and for the repair of farming implements.

It was natural for an industrial system based on slave labor to create a large leisure class, which grew larger as wealth increased. This was true in Mississippi as well as in the other Southern states. This leisure class furnished the country with the statesmen who were most influential in the organization of the Union, and by whom the country was dominated for the first seventy-five years of its history as a nation. It also developed the social graces and amenities of life which made the courtesy and hospitality of the Southern gentlemen famous wherever gentle manners and good breeding were cultivated.

Social Conditions.

The centre of the social, as well as of the industrial, system was the plantation. Manual labor was necessarily associated with slavery, and was regarded as degrading by the governing classes. While the social system was intensely democratic in theory, in reality it was a perfect type of a feudal aristocracy modeled after that of England. Like the English gentry, the American of the South of the highest class did not regard the man engaged in trade as his social equal. This idea was brought from England to Virginia, and was carried to all the states of the South.

The well-to-do planters of Mississippi had yearly incomes ranging from ten thousand to one hundred thousand dollars; they spent much of their time in travel, especially during the heated term in summer. Every year, from July to October, the fashionable resorts of Virginia were thronged with rich planters from the lower South.

The social life of the plantation was marked by a sincere hospitality; the owner was courtesy itself; his home, his family and his ancestors were first in his affections; he was generous, kind-hearted and quick to take offense ; to wound him in his honor was to give an unpardonable affront, and the duel was the mode for the redress of such grievance. There was a chivalry in his nature which accorded woman the highest place in his ideal of a well-ordered society, and no one was allowed to even hint in his presence that she was not the embodiment of all the virtues.

In the pursuit of pleasure during the winter New Orleans was a favorite centre with Mississippi planters. The fondness of the Creole for music and gayety appealed to them, and they took advantage of yearly visits to make settlements with commission merchants, to give their wives and daughters some of the enjoyments of city life.

Educational Conditions.

During the pioneer period of the state's history it was the custom of cultured families to send their sons and daughters, after they had acquired the necessary preliminary training from private tutors and at local academies, to the colleges and universities of Virginia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The University of Virginia, Chapel Hill and Princeton were favored by many families of wealth and culture.

The University of Mississippi was chartered in 1844, and when it was opened for students in November, 1848, a strong appeal was made for local support; from that time, therefore, the majority of young men seeking higher education were sent to Oxford instead of Charlottesville and New Haven.

Up to the forties little attention had been paid to the education of the children of the state at public expense, and there was no public school system worthy of the name. In 1846 Governor Brown in his message urged appropriations for that purpose, and in that year the legislature passed "An Act to establish a System of Public Schools." But this law was fatally defective, as it provided that the tax could not be levied until the consent of a majority of resident heads of families in each township had been given in writing. The public schools struggled along under the law of 1846 and that of 1848 until 1861; many counties had good schools supported by public taxation; others were very imperfectly provided for in this particular.

In 1860 there were 1,116 public schools in Mississippi attended by 30,970 pupils.

State Politics and Party Leaders, 1817-1861.

The state of Mississippi entered the Union during the administration of James Monroe, which was the era of good feeling in American politics. The Federalists had made their last effort as a national party in 1816, and the organization was in a state of dissolution in 1817. The Jeffersonian Republicans were at the height of their power, and the Whig party had not yet been formed.

The men who held a controlling influence in Mississippi politics when the state was admitted were David Holmes, George Poindexter and Walter Leake; they were not only natives of Virginia but belonged to the most steadfast school of Jeffersonian politics, whose political creed centred in strict construction of the constitution and state sovereignty. This school of public men, first known as Republicans and later as Democrats, have controlled the politics of the state, with few interruptions, since its admission into the Union. From 1817 to 1832 there was not sufficient opposition from the advocates of the old Federalist party to have any influence on public affairs; the leaders of the Democratic party were George Poindexter, Robert J. Walker, Thomas Hinds, Powhatan Ellis, Thomas B. Reed and Abram M. Scott.

The first presidential election in which the state participated was in 1820; three electors were chosen, one of whom died before the election, so that the state's first vote for President was cast for James Monroe.

From 1824 to 1840 the Democratic party was supreme in the state and Andrew Jackson was the idol of the people. In 1836 there was great dissatisfaction over the candidacy of Martin Van Buren for the presidency, and but for the well-known desire of General Jackson, the state would have been carried by Hugh L. White, the Whig candidate, in spite of its large majority of Democratic voters. The state was carried for Van Buren by only 311 majority, and when he was again a candidate in 1840 he was defeated by William H. Harrison. In the national election of 1848 the Democrats were again defeated. These were the only defeats of the Democratic party in national elections during the first forty years of the state's history.

The same uniform success attended the party in state politics, with the single exception of 1835, which resulted in the defeat of Hiram G. Runnels, the caucus nominee of the Democratic party, by Charles Lynch, the candidate of the Poindexter Democrats and Whigs. The political effect of the constitution of 1832 was to place the control of public affairs more firmly in the hands of the Democrats.

In the selection of the state judiciary by popular vote, party lines were not drawn, the result being that while the Whigs were in the minority they furnished many of the ablest men on the bench from 1832 to 1861—William Lewis Sharkey, Cotesworth Pinckney Smith, William Yerger, Edward Turner and John Isaac Guion were Whigs.

The Democrats were defeated by the brilliant oratory of Seargent Smith Prentiss in the congressional election of 1837, and it was under his leadership that the Whig party attained its greatest prestige.

The decade from 1840 to 1850 developed such Democratic leaders as Jefferson Davis, Albert G. Brown, Henry S. Foote, John A. Quitman, John J. McRae and Jacob Thompson. These men dominated the policies of their party in Mississippi for twenty years, and it was during these years that the great questions of State and National Rights became the absorbing issues before the country.

Mississippi, by reason of its advocacy of the doctrine of the Virginia school of constitutional construction and on account of its Anglo-Saxon citizenship, was from the beginning entirely committed to the principle of state sovereignty in all the functions of government not specifically delegated to national authority. While this is true, the spirit of nationality was dominant among the people, and when the national interests were involved there was a ready response in defense of the country. In territorial times the national feeling was manifested in the belligerent attitude of the people in their relations with Spanish neighbors, and later in their response to the call of the country for the defense of New Orleans against the English. In 1846 Governor Brown was very much offended at the national authorities because they would not accept twenty-five hundred Mississippians for service in the war with Mexico. There was no diminution of national feeling in Mississippi until 1847, when the controversy arose over the admission of new states carved out of the territory acquired from Mexico. The vote of the House of Representatives of 115 to 105 in favor of the "Wilmot Proviso" was an open avowal of the Northern states that they would not allow slaveholding territories to enter the Union.

The feeling of the South was deeply stirred by this frank avowal of a purpose to discriminate against her people in the occupation and development of the territories. The legislature of Virginia passed resolutions affirming "that the adoption and enforcement of the Wilmot Proviso would present two alternatives to the people of Virginia, one of abject submission to aggression and outrage, and the other of determined resistance at all hazards and to the last extremity." This official announcement of Virginia had a strong influence on Mississippi as well as on every other Southern state.

The state election of 1849 resulted in the success of John A. Quitman, who represented the doctrine that Congress did not have the constitutional right to restrict slavery. The Democratic and Whig parties were both committed to that position by the action of a non-partisan convention held the same year, and Quitman received many Whig votes. He was the most radical of the "Southern Rights" men, favored secession, and at that time was far in advance of such Democratic leaders as Jefferson Davis, Henry S. Foote and Albert G. Brown.

By 1850 the danger point had been reached in the discussion of sectional issues, the leaders of the North as well as those of the South had given way to much intemperate criticism of motives, and the conservatives of the country bestirred themselves to bring about a compromise. They turned to Henry Clay, the "great pacificator," who early in 1850 introduced in the Senate his famous measure known to history as the "Compromise of 1850."

After the passage of the Clay compromise it was believed that the slavery controversy would be ended, but it had the opposite effect in Mississippi. Jefferson Davis had opposed and voted against the compromise, and all the Mississippi congressmen supported his position. Henry S. Foote, the other senator, had voted for it, and, after being condemned by the legislature, he appealed to the people by announcing himself as a candidate for governor against John A. Quitman, the candidate of the Democratic State Rights party.

In November, 1850, Foote organized the Union party, which nominated him for governor. The following of Quitman was made up of the majority of the Democratic party and an influential minority of State Rights Whigs; Foote's forces were enlisted from the old line Whigs and Union Democrats.

The first trial of strength was had in September, 1851, over the election of delegates by the people to a convention called by act of the legislature to meet in Jackson Nov. 10, 1851, to express the opinion of the people on the compromise. In that election a large majority of Union delegates were chosen, and the Quitman policy of resistance was condemned by 7,000 majority. After this decisive reverse, Quitman foresaw his defeat in his contest for the governorship and withdrew. Jefferson Davis was called by the Democratic party to fill the breach. He resigned his seat in the Senate, although Senator Foote had reserved his place there to fall back on in the event of his defeat, and attempted to rally his party for the November election.

When Quitman was made the candidate of the Democrats, a majority of the convention really wanted Davis as a more conservative candidate. It was suggested to Quitman that he withdraw in favor of Davis and accept the senatorship which the party proposed to give him, but he claimed the nomination as a vindication of his policies and it was given him with many misgivings.

While Mr. Davis opposed the Compromise of 1850 as taking everything from the South and giving nothing in return, he had never advocated disunion as a remedy. In his brief campaign for governor he took the position that secession was the last alternative, the final remedy, and should not be resorted to under conditions as they existed at that time. His appeals in behalf of this cause, while not successful, reduced the majority against his party from 7,000 to 1,000. Jefferson Davis has been represented as advocating the dissolution of the Union in the campaign of 1851, but such a theory is an entire misconception of his position. He believed with John C. Calhoun that the Union was being endangered by not giving the South equal rights in the territories, by nullification of the fugitive slave laws in the Northern states, and by the continual agitation of the slavery question by fanatical abolitionists. He loved the Union with perfect sincerity, and his entire course during all the troubles of 1850-60 is a refutation of the charge that he favored its dissolution.

In the presidential campaign of 1852 the state was carried for Franklin Pierce, by a good majority, on a platform of general acquiescence in the Compromise of 1850. The majority of both Democrats and Whigs were willing to stand by the compromise and were hopeful that it would at least give the country a rest from the continued agitation of the slavery question by such men as Garrison, Phillips and Burlingame. There was a concerted effort on the part of conservative men in all the states to bring about a better state of feeling by pouring oil on the troubled waters, and for a time it succeeded.

During the years between 1854 and 1860 many events occurred which reopened with increased violence the agitation of all the old issues arising out of the rights of slaveholders in the territories. Stephen A. Douglas made a deplorable blunder in introducing the Kansas-Nebraska Bill and precipitated the Kansas struggle ; Mrs. Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, which fired the heart of the North and prepared its people to give aid to John Brown in his mad attempt to bring about a general slave insurrection; the fugitive slave law was nullified by many Northern states, and the Supreme Court of the United States was denounced in the most violent fashion for its decision in the Dred Scott case, and a higher law was invoked. By 1860 the people of Mississippi firmly believed that it was the intention of the dominant element of the North to disregard the constitution which secured them rights in the Union, and to obliterate slavery regardless of all property rights, or of the misery it would bring. This belief had been strengthened by the revolutionary utterances of Garrison, Phillips, Sumner, Seward and Wade, by the endorsement of Helper's "Impending Crisis" by Republican congressmen, and by the suggestion in Northern schoolbooks that negro regiments from Jamaica and Hayti might be landed in the South to aid in a servile insurrection. All these things go to show that for the six years preceding the secession of the Southern states the states of the North were very aggressive in their attacks upon the South.

After the election of Abraham Lincoln a last attempt was made by Senator John J. Crittenden, of Kentucky, to compromise all differences between slaveholding and non-slaveholding states. His plan of settlement was approved by Jefferson Davis, as the leader of the best sentiment of the South, and throughout the discussion in the committee of thirteen appointed to consider it, he stood ready at all times to accept it as the best solution of the dangerous problems confronting the country. Mr. Davis made a sincere effort to secure the adoption of the Crittenden Compromise, and the great majority of the people, regardless of party, favored it. The measure failed, but its failure cannot be laid at the door of Southern leaders.

In Mississippi the legislature had been called together by Governor Pettus, soon after the election of President Lincoln, for the purpose of calling a convention of delegates elected by the people to consider the then "existing relations between the government of the United States and the government and people of the state of Mississippi, and to adopt such measures of vindicating the sovereignty of the state and the protection of its institutions as shall appear to them to be demanded."

The election of delegates to the convention took place Dec. 20, 1860, and resulted in the selection of a majority favoring secession from the Union.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. — Manuscript Sources.—The manuscript sources of Mississippi history are preserved in the state department of archives and history, and are readily accessible to the investigator. These historical materials are extensive and embrace the collected archives of the executive, legislative, and judicial departments, and may be broadly classified as executive journals, judicial records, and minutes, archives of the various state departments, journals of constitutional conventions and a collection of unofficial manuscripts.

For a more minute description of these valuable collections see Annual Reports of the Director of the Department of Archives and History, 1902 to 1908, inclusive.

Printed Sources.—The printed sources of Mississippi history, 18171861, consist of books, newspaper files and pamphlets. A large collection of such materials is preserved in the state historical department. A brief suggestive list from these materials follows.—Baldwin: Flush Times in Alabama and Mississippi (1853-1901); Claiborne: Life and Correspondence of John A. Quitman (2 vols., 1860); Cluskey: Speeches and Writings of Albert G. Brown (1859); Cobb: Mississippi Scenes (1851); Davis, Reuben: Recollections of Mississippi and Mississippians (1891); Foote: Bench and Bar of the South and the Southwest (1876), Casket of Reminiscences (1874); Ingraham: The Southwest (1876); Prentiss: Memoirs of S. S. Prentiss (2 vols., 1855, 1879, 1899); Riley: Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society (9 vols., 1898-1906); Rowland: Mississippi Official and Statistical Registers (2 vols., 1904-1908), Encyclopedia of Mississippi History (2 vols., 1907; this work covering the entire field of the state's history from 1540 to 1907); Sparks: Memoirs of Fifty Years (1870); Van Winkle: Nine Years of Democratic Rule (1847), Newspaper files—Natchez Areal (1821-1822); Port Gibson Correspondent (1821); Jackson Mississippian (1835-1843); Mississippi Free Trader (Natchez, 1835-1851); Natchez Daily Courier (1841-1861); Vicksburg Whig (1842-1847); Woodville Republican (1826-1848).

For lists of newspaper files and pamphlets see Annual Report of the Department of Archives and History (1908).

DUNBAR ROWLAND,
Director, Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Miss.


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