Radical Rule in Mississippi
James D. Lynch

During this time the legislature of Mississippi could not be more appropriately characterized than by the apt denomination of "black and tan." It was composed almost entirely of ignorant negroes and Northern political adventureers, happily called carpet baggers! These legislators, having little or no property interest in the State, manifested on every occasion the most bitter feelings against the white people who owned all the property and paid all the taxes. Indeed, the legislature was constantly actuated by the worst spirit of communism, and the desire and intention to so tax the property of the whites as to force them to suffer its confiscation or abandonment, was in many instances open and avowed.

In this the cupidity of the carpet bagger and the race prejudice of the negro found apparently an indissoluble bond of union, and a common incentive to every act antagonistic to the property holders and tax payers. Consequently the taxes during this period were utterly insupportable, and had they continued to exist much longer would evidently have soon produced universally the very effect for which they were imposed.

The people of Mississippi found themselves impoverished to an unexampled degree by the result of the war. The productive property of the State consisted entirely in land and negro slaves, and with the loss of the latter the former became almost worthless, as the negro, naturally indolent, manifested in the early days of his freedom the determination to labor only so much as might be required to supply himself with the necessaries of life, and this disposition continues to this day to be a marked feature of his character.

The white people of Mississippi, driven to these terrible straits, sought by every means in their power to find some palliation of these onerous and oppressive measures. They had offered, as has been before mentioned, every description of compromise, buy yet without avail. It was now determined to offer a petition to this infamous legislature for even a partial redress of their sore grievances.

For this purpose, a convention of the tax payers of the State met at the capitol in the City of Jackson, in the month of December, 1874. It was composed of solid property holders from all portions of the State, without reference to political party. It adopted an address to the legislature setting forth their grievances, petitioned for their redress, and designated the remedies they desired to be applied for that purpose. They represented the general poverty of the people and the depressed value of every kind of property, which rendered it impossible for them to pay the enormous rate of taxation to which they were subjected. They compared these rates with those of former days, when the country was abounding in wealth. That, since the reorganization of the State upon a basis resulting from the war, which had deprived them of nine-tenths of their property, the people had grown constantly poorer, and the means of suport harder and harder to be procured, while their spirits were even burdened with dread less the very shelter should be torn away from over the heads of their wives and little ones.

That in addition to their poverty, there were necessarily many burdens to be borne by the Southern people unknown to them in more prosperous times, such as their part of the public debt of the general government, the great expense of the public school system, and the increased price of necessary commodities, and to this might be added the wilful waste and extravagance of public officers, and the heavy local burdens that fall upon the inhabitants of cities and towns. For the remedy of these evils, they asked for economy on the part of the party in control of the State government.

They showed the rapid and continued increase of the taxation imposed upoon them, which had been continually augmented and raised from a State tax of ten cents on one dollar in 1869, to fourteen times as much in 1874, and that the county levies, in many instances, were increased in a still greater ratio, while the people were much poorer at the latter period than at the former, and that this tax was even greater, from the fact that the assessed value of their property was greatly in excess of its market value, and thus, while their property declined in value, and the people became poorer, their burdens of taxation were continually increased.

That notwithstanding these extravagant tax levies, the public debt during all these years had increased annually on an average of over six hundred and sixty-eight thousand dollars, a sum which, if economically administered, would itself defray all the expenses of the State government.

That proportional results had, in many instances, attended the operations of the boards of county supervisors, whose malfeasances and extravagancies had saddled the counties with ruinous debts. That these facts, whether regarded as the result of misgovernment, or as proof of the unprosperious condition of the people, arising from other causes, were alike painful to contemplate.

That the general failure of crops during that year contributed to place the taxes still further beyond their power of reach. That all the crops raised in the State during that year, if sold at their market value, would not pay the cost of production and their enormous taxes; and that in consequence of this, in many parts of the State, the people were on the very borders of famine, and that these sufferings fell heaviest upon the poor, who formed a very large majority of the citizens; and they then asked, if in this condition of things, the few officials of the State, who were the mere servants of the people, ought to be allowed to grow fat and rich, while the people were suffering for the common necessaries of life.


Kemper County Vindicated and A Peep at Radical Rule in Mississippi by James D. Lynch
E. J. Hale & Son, New York, 1879, pages 162-165.