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[91]

Chapter 9: Governor Warmoth.

“ where will the government reside?” repeats General Warmoth, to whom we put this question. “Here! The only legal government in Louisiana resides in me. I am the governor. No man but myself has been recognised by Congress as Governor of Louisiana. Kellogg and McEnery are alike repudiated. Kellogg is Governor by grace of General Sheridan. If the Federal army left, McEnery would be Governor by force of the White League. When right and order gain the mastery, there will be no legal Governor in New Orleans except myself.”

Henry C. Warmoth holds a position in this city, not only on the legal ground of his election being undisputed, but because he represents that large mass of citizens who care for neither Blacks nor Whites so long as they can mind their shops and carry on their trade. These persons want to live in [92] peace, to earn their meat and drink, to keep a roof above their heads. They take no thought for theories of race. All men who want to buy are brethren in their eyes. A Negro's dollar is as welcome in exchange for shoes or whisky as a White man's dollar. What have trading folks to do with wrangles over equal rights? Enough for them to pay their rents and taxes, leaving such theories to lawyers and senators.

Among the Negroes, too, Warmoth has a body of supporters. He has never lied to them. He got their votes without a promise of “ forty acres and a good mule.” His promises are not so large as Kellogg's, but he tries to carry out the pledges he makes. To his ingenuity the Negroes owe the metropolitan police, a force which some of them regard as their only guarantee of freedom. As Kellogg's star declines, the Negroes turn towards Warmoth as a man of moderate counsels who might keep them from collision with the Whites.

A man of parts and of the world, a soldier, with a pallid brow and deep-set student eyes, Warmoth has the grand style of domestic drama, and Southern ladies are said to think him very handsome. He [93] affects a courtly mode. Unlike the mass of carpetbaggers, who are not received in society, Warmoth aspires to social consideration, and is sometimes honoured by a card from leaders of fashion in New Orleans. This difference is at once his merit and his curse. Society has brought him into friendly intercourse with men as stern in their Conservatism as McEnery and Penn. Wiltz has received him; Ogden has visited him in jail. By his charm of manner and his moderation of view, Warmoth has half-reconciled the upper classes to his presence in their town.

But his successes on a ground forbidden to his comrades, fill the scalawag ranks with fury. When Warmoth came to New Orleans, with the reputation of a brave soldier and a cunning politician, he was elected by the loyal citizens President of the Grand Army of the Republic in Louisiana. The Grand Army of the Republic is a patriotic association of men who fought in the war; troops now disbanded and dispersed, yet held together by the brotherhood of arms and by the memory of service in a great cause. A Grand Army of the Republic exists in every State, enjoying the patronage of [94] Government, and enjoying this patronage most of all in the Southern States. The President of such a body holds a post of great advantage, and General Warmoth turned his openings to such good account that he carried the Governorship of Louisiana under the Reconstruction Act.

Of Warmoth's administration every man speaks according to his party leanings: his friends affirming that he kept order and encouraged trade, while his opponents call him a rogue, a thief, a coward, and a murderer. Conservatives who have no cause to love him, allow that in a post of great risk and heavy trials he proved himself to be a fairly able and a moderately honest man.

Fair enemies do him so much justice; not so his former friends, either Republican fanatics or Conservative trimmers. The Republican fanatics accuse him of being the ruin of their party in New Orleans. Warmoth, they say, disgraced the Republican flag by his corruption. Warmoth, in connexion with Senator Jewell, started the Fusion, by which their party was divided into two camps. Warmoth, they allege, paralyses the Grand Army of the Republic. Where is the Grand Army? Why [95] are the companies not up, raising their voices in this critical hour? Why are the Union soldiers standing back, leaving Sheridan to fight alone? Warmoth is the culprit. Warmoth is bowing to the Conservatives; seeking an entrance into club and society; kissing gloves to the ladies of Pennsylvania-avenue.

Yet these Republican fanatics are tame compared with the Conservative trimmers, and especially with that Senator Jewell who was once his foremost advocate. Jewell is manager of a paper called “The commercial Bulletin;” a lively sheet, in which he carries on a war of insult and reproach against his former chief; not on the ground of high principle, but on a minor question springing out of the great conflict of race.

Shall Negroes be allowed to ride in street cars? Ladies answer, No. Car owners, unable to offend their customers, answer, No. It is a bitter feud, dividing families, like the acts of Kellogg and the messages of Grant.

A group of other questions stand, as one may say, around that of the street cars. Shall Negroes be allowed to lodge in good hotels? Shall Negroes be allowed to dine at common tables? Shall [96] Negroes be allowed to sit in any part of church? The carpet-baggers, who depend on Negro suffrages, assert that all these privileges spring from the admitted theory of “equal rights.” If White and Black are equal before a judge, they are equal before a car-conductor and a tavern clerk. So say the scalawags. The other side reply that the theory of equal rights implies no privilege of the kind. If two persons are equal, they are free to trade together if they like, and not to trade together unless they like. Equality consists in the right to agree or disagree — to part or join, as each may please. A free man cannot be compelled to buy and sell with another. He who keeps a store is not bound to sell his goods to anyone. He may select his customers. If you run a street car, you have a right to reject the applicant for a seat. In practice you employ that right in the rejection of whole classes. You refuse to carry idiots, beggars, drunkards, rowdies, shameless women. You exclude all persons dressed in rags or grimed with dirt, and you expel all persons using foul expressions. You have to think of decent people and the moral order they require. Opinion rules; and, be you Republican or [97] Conservative, you must conduct your cars in accordance with public sentiment.

This question of whether the Negro shall or shall not be allowed to ride in street cars, excites as much debate as the telegrams of Sheridan. Everyone is suggesting remedies and discussing compromises. General Warmoth suggests, that cars might be started in Canal Street, to be marked with a star, in which Negroes may ride, with such White people as have no objection to their company. He carries this suggestion to his old friend Jewell for insertion in the “Bulletin.” Jewell declines to give it space. “ Then I must try elsewhere,” says Warmoth. Jewell is of opinion that the scheme should not be broached. “I think it may and should,” says Warmoth. “If you print that document,” cries Jewell, “I will ruin you for ever.”

Warmoth prints his suggestion, and the two Conservative leaders, McEnery and Wiltz, adopt it as a reasonable compromise of the dispute. Next morning Jewell comes out with a leader in which Warmoth is described as “Lazarus, raised from the dead by Satan;” as a “ bold bad man, the originator and promoter of every abuse,” as a “ congener” of the [98] “rattle-snake,” and as a man of “infamous record.” Warmoth defends himself by accusing Jewell of “lying-unmitigated lying.” He adds that Jewell's malice towards him springs from his refusal to give the Senator a government printing job!

Jewell now sends an agent to Warmoth's residence in St. Louis Street to ascertain if he will fight. Warmoth says he cannot meet a fellow like Jewell, on hearing which reply, the Senator sends him a challenge. Warmoth, to Jewell's great surprise, accepts.

What follows is a mystery as well as a tragedy. Daniel C. Byerley, a Lieutenant in the Confederate army, and a partner with Jewell in the printing business, takes the quarrel with Warmoth on himself. Byerley, a strong man, but maimed of his left arm, follows Warmoth down Canal Street, where he assaults him with a stout cane, striking him two sudden blows on the head. Reeling from these blows, Warmoth retreats some steps. Byerley rushes on him. They close, and Byerley throws his enemy to the ground. Twisting and fighting, the two men roll to the kerbstone, Byerley beating Warmoth on the head, and Warmoth jobbing his knife into Byerley's side. [99] A crowd runs on them, and lifts them up. Byerley shakes his cane, but leaves the ground, leaning on the arms of two friends, who bear him to a hospital close by. Warmoth gives up his knife, and yields himself prisoner to a captain of police.

Byerley lingers a few hours, and then expires. Having met his death in fighting an intruder, Byerley is the hero of New Orleans, and a long train of carriages follows him to his grave. Governor McEnery is one of his pall-bearers, and more than two thousand citizens march behind his hearse. No. one pretends to think the worse of General Warmoth for having killed a man. His prison is a court, his visiting-book filled with famous names. McEnery calls on him in jail. Ogden and Penn are no less courteous, and Speaker Wiltz pays him a formal visit. Five hundred citizens go to see him in a single day. Never has Warmoth found himself so popular. Nobody holds him guilty of the blood so lately shed, and when the charge is brought before a judge, he is at once discharged.

“ I thought Byerley was fully armed,” says Warmoth, in explanation of his use of the knife,

“and I only struck at him in self-defence. He came [100] on me by stealth, and struck me twice before I saw him. The cane he carried was a sword-stick; a weapon as deadly as a sword; and far more deadly than a knife.”

This murder in the street has heated and perplexed the situation; for, whatever men may think of street fighting, a man with blood on his hands is not an officer whom any reasonable man would like to seat in the chair of State. In a more settled country, such an act would drive a man from public life; and for the moment, even in Louisiana, Warmouth has become impossible. How long will the ban endure?

“You seem to think General Warmoth dead,” says one of his admirers. “John Barleycorn is dead. Bury him in a hole, and cover him with earth. In five weeks he is up again. You'll live to see Warmoth President of the United States.”

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