Joint Committee on Reconstruction
Mailton J. Safford
The Union Party of Alabama

WASHINGTON, February 3, 1866.
Mailton J. Safford sworn and examined.
By Mr. BOUTWELL: (Mr. GEORGE S. BOUTWELL, (of Massachusetts,) House of Representatives.)

Question. State you name, age, and residence.
Answer. My name is Mailton J. Safford; my age is thrity-seven; I reside at Montgomery, Alabama.

Question. How long have you lived in Alabama, and in what have you been engaged while living there?
Answer. Since 1856. I have been residing in Montgomery, practicing law.

Question. Where did you reside previous to that time?
Answer. Previous to that time I resided in Dallas county and in Lowndes county. I was born in Dallas county.

Question. What means, if any, have you had since Lee's surrender of ascertaining the setiments of the people of Alabama, or any portion of them?
Answer. I have been a practicing lawyer in Montgomery, connected in a good degree wth politics, reading the public papers, and communicating with prominent men in various parts of the State, personally and by letter.

Question. Does the legislature of the State sit at Montgomery?
Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Has it been in session since Lee's surrender?
Answer. It has been in session since the 1st of December, I believe, or since some time in November. The precise time I do not remember. It is now in session.

Question. Have you any means of knowing the opinions of its members?
Answer. I have this means: I have mixed with them, conversed with them, observed their proceedings, their votes, &c.

Question. What conclusions have you reached as to the loyalty or disloyalty of the people of Alabama?
Answer. My opinion is that the political control of the State is now in the hands of men who have heretofore been prominently disloyal to the United States government, and who now propose to keep the power of the State in their hands. The purpose for which this is done is, of course, to protect themselves against the opprobrium whch might attach to their condition of treason and disloyalty. I sent to Mr. Sumner some two months ago a long, elaborate exposition of my views, which I suppose he has laid before this committee. That would give a more extended and thorough exposition of the whole subject than I shall be able to give in this short verbal examination.

It will be necessary for me to say, before coming to the precise condition of the people of that State at the present time, that at the time of Lee's surrender there was organized in the State of Alabama what was understood to be a Reconstruction or Union party. That party had a controlling majority in the lower house of the legislature. The old senate, under the constitution adopted about the date of secession, held over, so that the senate remained pretty much as it was at the time the State seceded. The house could accomplish nothing without the co-operation of the senate, and no progress was made. During the year 1865 the Union or Reconstruction party, of which I was a member, had a very confident hope of obtaining the governorship and the senate, which was for the first time to be elected under the new constitution, and so obtain control of the State. But the invasion of the State by General Wilson and by the 16th United States army corps happened about the time the election was to take place, and a new phase altogether was presented.

Immediately after the surrender of the confederate forces, the rebel influence was very much appalled, overthrown, and destroyed there. The rebels were very much subjugated, to tell you the truth, and made stong professions of submission to the government. For a time, the Union men of the State, those of us who had antagonized the rebels for four years, thought their power was entirely broken and gone. But soon afterwards they began very industriously to propagate the idea (and the policy adopted by President Johnson seemed to favor the idea) that they might have great hope of regaining their ascendancy to some extent in that State. I say they entertained that hope from facts which came into my possession. They represented, for instance, that President Johnson thought more highly of rebel influence than he did of that of Union men. They would cite such instances as this: that a prominent Union man would go to see the President to get his pardon, and state to him that he had been as much of a Union man as a man could be in his circumstances for the last four years. President Johnson would say, "I am delighted to hear that." But in the course of the conversation, the Union man would tell the President that at one time it became ncessary for him to become somewhat complicated with the rebellion; that he was compelled to sell some cotton to the southern confederacy to raise means, and, being worth $20,000, he therefore came within the exceptions of the President's proclamation. The President would reply, "Well, sir, it seems you were a Union man who was willing to let the Union slide, and now I will let you slide." Another man from the other side would come in, as they tell it of Judge Cochran, of Alabama, representing to the President that he had been a very prominent rebel; that he had done all he could to bring about secession; that when his State seceded he took his gun and fought in the ranks as a private; that he regretted very much the war had resulted as it had; that he was very sorry the rebels had not been able to sustain themselves longer. In all respects he represented himself as a very rabid, bitter, unrepenting rebel. The President asked him, "Upon what ground do you base your application for pardon? I do not see anything in your statement to justify you in making such an application." Judge Cochrane replied, "Mr. President, I read that where sin abounds, mercy and grace doth much more abound, and it is upon that principle that I ask for a pardon." The President immediately directed the pardon to be given. In that way they have represented that the President is with them. Others have represented that the President is proposing to build up a party, composed of a united south, the northern democracy, and such influence as he can bring to bear, by virtue of his patronage, upon the republican party, to control the government and re-elect him President in 1868. That seems to be their policy, as far as I could learn. So great was their confidence that they immediately set to work to obtain the control of the convention called to take the State back again into the Union. They succeeded in obtaining a large majority of that convention and in controlling the election of members of Congress and of members of the legislature. They have succeeded in manufacturing a public opinion which makes treason creditable and loyalty to the government discreditable. They have ostracised, so far as they conveniently or prudently could, all Union men from the political power of the State. They denounce men who have adhered to the United States government as traitors, and charge them with being the cause of the failure of the confederacy, by creating a division of their councils. That is the present condition of Alabama. There is really a strong Union element there, which, if it could be organized, would be very valuable to the United States government.

Question. What proportion of the people of Alabama, if left to themselves, would prefer the national government to the establishment of the confederacy, if the establishment of the confederacy were possible?
Answer. Taking the entire voting population, if the matter could be presented under all the influences as they exist just now, I should suppose there would be twenty or twenty-five thousand Union votes in the State.

Question. What is the aggregate vote of the State?
Answer. My present impression is, without being able to ascertain very definitely, that it is somewhere about seventy-five or eighty thousand. An explanation would make that more satisfactory. About all the northern portion of the State, with the exception of the rich, alluvial lands on the Tennessee, particularly the mountain counties, including several large counties in eastern Alabama, and the lumber counties in south Alabama, have heretofore had a large population which might have been called a non-slaveholding population, a poor white population, though possessing, many of them, a good deal of intelligence. There has always been a certain degree of antagonism between them and the planters occupying the rich interior counties of the State. They have for a long time felt that the free institutions of the north were more calculated to advance their interests than the slave institutions of the south. A great many of them showed their adhesion to the United States government during the war. Now, if the government would foster and encourage Unionism in Alabama, until that population could by proper appliances be concentrated and organized, there is the material for a large, reliable, white Union party in that State; but, at the present time, while the disloyal men have not only the control of the political power of the State, but are permitted to manufacture a public sentiment to suit themselves, very little can be done by the Union men, especially while the disloyal men hold with much plausibility that the President is entirely with them, and virtually looks to them, as the men how have heretofore controlled the reins of government, to whip in the Union party to his and their support. Any man in Alabama now, who would come out and openly avow himself in favor of co-operation with the Union party at the north, would at once be placed under the ban of this proscription. He would be charged with being a radical, with being in favor of negro suffrage, as one in favor of negro equality, who would invite the negro into his parlor, to marry his daughter, &c. A terribly proscriptive power would be brought to bear upon him. As to particular, isolated facts of acts of crelty upon the colored population by those who have been in the rebellion, I do not know that I could give many of them. I was told by a gentleman whom I regarded as a man of character that in the southern part of the State some of the white men who, after the occupation of Pensacola by the United States military forces, went into the federal lines, and since the surrender have returned to their old homes, have been driven out, some of them hung, some shot, and others run off. So this gentleman told me, and he is a man whom I consider reliable. The disposition of the people of Alabama towards the colored man is indicated by the public acts of the legislature. For instance: the legislature recently passed a bill which had for its ostensible object the protection of the freedmen, which provided that where any citizen rented to a freedman any house or tenement he should become responsble for his taxes, for his physician's bill, &c. It was well understood that the object was to drive the freedmen out of the cities on to the farms, the responsibility placed upon landlords who should rent property to them being so great as to amount practically to an inhibition against renting to freedmen. That indicates the character and feeling of the rebels there. There is no question that but for the protecting power of Congress they would really or virtually enslave the freedmen again. At the same time, I think a good many of these men, who were formerly rebels or secessionists, are earnestly desirous of becoming, and are trying to make, good citizens; but they are not those who have heretofore mixed much in politics, or have had any controlling influence in forming the public sentiment of the State.


Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction of the First Session Thirty-Ninth Congress, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1866, Arkansas - Georgia - Mississippi - Alabama, pages 59-61.