South Carolina

Military Reconstruction
Southern States

Under military jurisdiction of Gen. Sickles, voter registration in 1867 resulted in the election of a "black and tan" convention of 124 delegates (76 blacks) that drafted a reform constitution. Elections were held for a new state legislature that ratified the constitution and petitioned for readmission, granted by Congress June 25, 1868.

For the first time, South Carolina freedmen were allowed to participate in the political system. 87% of the 81,000 registered black voters exercised the franchise, resulting in the only southern state legislature with a black majority (75-49) in the lower house. Among the many reforms sought by the black majority were schools, juries, local government, land reform. The South Carolina Land Commission was one of the most successful examples of Reconstruction reform.

The lower house of the South Carolina state legislature experienced, with Louisiana, the most corruption of a southern state government in Reconstruction. Led by carpetbagger Gov. Robert Scott and scalawag speaker of the house Franklin Moses, Jr., many white and black legislators accepted bribes, voted for self-serving laws such as a free restaurant and bar in the State House, "legislative supplies" that included champagne and hams. The tax burden quadrupled and state debt doubled due to rapid railroad construction and inflated land purchases.

The corruption of the South Carolina legislature became the subject of a series of newspaper articles by James Shepherd Pike written for Greeley's New York Tribune. These articles added rumors and fears to the facts and exaggerated the corruption, blaming it on the black majority rather than the white leadership. Pike's articles were published as abook, The Prostrate State, that was used by D. W. Griffith to produce the 1915 film Birth of a Nation.


revised 4/20/02 by Schoenherr | Outline | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4