THE ADMINISTRATION OF GOVERNOR ALCORN.
Source: Lowry, Robert and McCardle, William H. A History of Mississippi, from the Discovery of the Great River by Hernando DeSoto, Including the Earliest Settlement Made by the French Under Iberville, to the Death of Jefferson Davis [1541-1889]. Jackson, Miss.: R. H. Henry & Co., 1891. Pages 382-384.
James L. Alcorn, a native of the State of Illinois, but educated in Kentucky, and for fifty years a resident of Mississippi, was elected Governor of Mississippi in November, 1869, as the candidate of the Republican party, and thus became the nineteenth chief magistrate of the commonwealth, and the first chosen under the constitution formulated in 1868.
On the 10th day of March, 1870, he was inaugurated, and in his address of that date, he said:
"The military government, which I hae the happiness to bow this date out of the State, was no more a subject of pleasure to me than it was to any other Mississippian whose blood glows as mine does, with the instinct of self-government."
Governor Alcorn was elected as a Republican. He had been a life-long Whig, a trusted leader of his party, and assumed that he would serve the State in his chosen new role. Possessed of strong will power, bold, able and adroit in debate, he conceived the idea of dividing the white people, and especially entertained the hope that many of his old Whig followers would join him. His scheme seemed to be for the white people to join the National Republican party, get control of the negroes, and administer the State government in the interest of the people. White Democratic voters were not in temper to embrace such a radical change, nor did they believe that the negro could at that time be won from his tyrant master, the carpet-bagger.
In acknowledgment of his elevation he announced "that the ballot box, the jury box and the offices of the State should be thrown open to the competent and honest, without distinctino of color."
Two months previous to his induction into office he wrote to Hon. Geo. W. Harper, a prominent citizen of Raymond, to which among other things he stated, "I am a man of the day. In the last contest I inquired not where the man battling at my side was born. I asked him not when he came into the State. * * I did not pause to look into the face of the man who fought under the banner I bore, and still bear, to ascertain the color of his skin. * * * By my honesty in dealing here with them, I challenge their honesty in dealing with me, and expect if they come over to me, they will do so in perfect good faith, as members of the great Republican party of the State and Nation."
He recommended a well equipped military command, coupled with a secret service fund, to be placed at his disposal, thus establishing a character of espionage which caused to be visited upon him, on the part of the people, a condemnation which required years to eradicate. It will be remembered that previous to his occupancy of the gubernatorial chair he had been elected United States Senator.
Many well informed citizens suggested at the time of the Governor's transfer to a new and different field, that it was a shrewd move on the part of the Radical plunderers to get ride of him. They esteemed him a bold, fearless, talented man, whose education and training were those of a gentleman, and that service at Washington would separate him from old associates and friends to whose influence he would be subjected. To whatever the motives the Radicals to the Legislature, or the Governor himself may be ascribed, the truth remains, but for ther power of the military, neither Gen. Alcorn or himself would have been chosen, for neither would have received the endorsement of the white people -- the former, because his scheme sought to destroy the Democratic party, the only political organization that had capacity or hope to regain and establish a local State government under which intelligence and civilization could prosper. Ames was not even a citizen of the State, so declared by Messrs. Conklin, Edmunds and Trumbull, distinguished Republican lawyers, and members of that body into which he was attemting a burglarious entrance.
Governor Alcorn's fatal step was accepting the leadership of a characterless bard of interlopers and plunderers, supplemented by the great body of negores.
They were incompatible elements, the one sought plunder, and when this could not be obtained, he was ready to bow himself out of the country. The other had staying qualities, but was powerless to contribute anything to the intelligent administration of government.
Governor Alcorn remained in the executive office until his departure for Washington to assume the duties of United States Senator. He was succeeded by Lieutenant-Governor R. C. Powers, who assumed the duties of chief magistrate of the State.
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