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Chapter 2: reign of anarchy.

On Monday morning, Packard, having the Republican writs in his hand, the Federal soldiers at his back, arrived at the Mechanics' Institute, in which edifice the Assembly was to meet. Caesar C. Antoine, holding Durell's order, stood at the door, pointing out who should enter and who should not enter. None but his friends were passed. Once in the legislative hall, these lost no time in prate, for Durell's order would expire on Wednesday, and many things had to be done before the Conservative members took their seats.

The first thing was to depose Governor Warmoth and obtain possession of his official lists. But how was the lawful governor to be displaced?

A Negro, named Pinchback, known familiarly as Pinch, offered his services to Kellogg-at a price. This Pinch, a bustling fellow, had been a steward on [12] board a steamboat, and afterwards an usher in a gambling den; but, like others of his tribe, he found that politics paid him better than washing basins, keeping doors, and dodging the police. As senator for a Negro district he happened to have served some weeks in office as successor to Lieutenant-governor Dunn. His time was up; but in America titles cling to men for life. Once a professor always a professor; once a Lieutenant-governor always a Lieutenant-governor. Though lost to office, Pinch had still a handle to his name.

This man seemed worth his salt, and Kellogg came to terms with him. Pinch was to upset Warmoth. If he succeeded, he was to be Acting Governor for a few days, to have a large sum of money, and, if Norton could be set aside, to go as senator to Washington.

These terms being settled, Billings led Pinch into the Senate Chamber, and, by help of Caesar C. Antoine, seated him as Lieutenant-governor in the chair of state. In ten minutes Pinch organized a house. Then he produced a paper, written out by Billings, charging Governor Warmoth with certain offences, and asking for his deposition. Ten [13] minutes more sufficed to get these articles read and passed. The Federal troops were handy, under Packard's orders, so that things were done as easily as they were said. Pinch assumed the rank of Acting Governor, took possession of the State House, seized the Great Seal of Louisiana, and proclaimed his advent to the world. Seldom in either history or fiction have grotesqueness and absurdity been carried to such lengths. We sigh over the doings of Bocking, the tailor of Leyden, as a pitiful illustration of human folly. We laugh at the impudence of Sancho, as a pleasant creation of satiric art. But Minster and Barrataria must look to their bays. If Bocking has no rival, and Sancho no superior, Pinchback and Antoine in high places have an air of burlesque not easily surpassed.

Warmoth refused to recognise Pinchback, and Pinchback was puzzled how to act even though he had Packard and a guard of honour in his ante-room. A duellist, who shoots his man as coolly as he shoots his bird, General Warmoth was not a man for Pinch to bully. The Conservative members, too, on finding the Chambers closed to [14] them, met elsewhere in protest, and appealed to Warmoth, as the lawful Governor, for support against a man who had no pretension to the rank and office he assumed.

Kellogg contrived that Pinch should be proposed as the republican candidate for Senator. Norton gave way for him; and it was hoped that his election to the Senate might help to cover his illegal acts. Yet Warmoth stood unmoved. Pinch ran to Packard for advice, but Packard was afraid to speak. Every lawyer in New Orleans told him the warrants he was executing were illegal. No one in authority recognised Pinch; and Packard, brazen as he was, declined to stir one step unless supported by a message from the White House.

Unable to move without Pinch, as Pinch was unable to move without Packard, Kellogg threw himself on his patron, President Grant, and wired this message to Attorney General Williams:--

New Orleans: Dec. 11, 1872.
If President in some way indicate recognition, Governor Pinchback and Legislature would settle everything.


If President indicate-only indicate recognition --in some way indicate-colourably indicate — recognition of Governor Pinchback, then-all will be well.

George H. Williams is a man of large resources, never failing in audacity, but he was not prepared to ask the President to recognise a Negro rowdy as Governor of Louisiana, merely because that Negro rowdy, in the absence of executive and legislature, had squatted in the chair of State. But he was only scrupulous as to forms. For Pinch as public man, Williams had no respect; for Pinch as party man, he had a duty to perform. What could be done, without too gross an outrage on public decency? Pinch could not be addressed as Governor; neither could he be recognised in open words. But, since he was acting as Governor, he might be addressed as “Acting Governor,” and his functions, though not acknowledged, might be taken as “ understood.” Williams is adroit in vague and shadowy terms. Next day this telegram, which fully established the reign of anarchy, was seat from Washington to New Orleans :-- [16] Acting Governor Pinchback, New Orleans.

Department of Justice: Dec. 12, 1872.
Let it be understood that you are recognized as the lawful Executive of Louisiana, and that the body assembled at the Mechanics' Institute is the lawful Legislature of the State; and it is suggested that you make proclamation to that effect, and also that all necessary assistance will be given to you and the Legislature herein recognized to protect the State from disorder and violence.

On this authority from the Cabinet, Governor Warmoth was deposed and Pinchback was intailed in office by the Federal officers. Yet Pinch was not at ease; nor could he feel at ease, so long as Governor Warmoth stayed in New Orleans. This gentleman might meet him in the street, and thrash him. Pinch was not desirous of a thrashing, and having Federal judges, as well as Federal generals at his back, he tried what law could do to rid him of his terrible enemy.

A second Federal judge, named Elmore, came to New Orleans, and Pinch appeared in [17] Elmore's court with his old articles against Governor Warmoth, and prayed that the said Governor Warmoth should be declared deposed from his office. Elmore had no jurisdiction in this case. Such questions could be argued in the Supreme Court of Louisiana, and in no other place. For Elmore to hear the plaintiff was a contempt of court; yet Elmore read the articles, and, without hearing the accused, declared that Governor Warmoth was deposed. Refusing to recognize this decree, Warmoth appealed to the judges of Louisiana, who decided that Elmore's proceedings were irregular, and his decree of no effect. Elmore would not cancel his decision, and the judges of Louisiana cited him for contempt of court. He only jeered. Like Pinch, he had a Federal army at his back. Through all these usurpations General Emory stood by the nominees of President Grant.

For four or five weeks Pinch ruled the State, as Jacques rules his duchy in the “Honeymoon.” Jesters squibbed him as King Pinch, His Nigger Majesty, Lord Paper Collar, and Marquis of Pomade. They sent him false despatches, and printed comic ukases in his name. At length, his reign was over, [18] and he handed the State House and the Great Seal to Kellogg; taking as his price the title of Governor, the Senatorship in Washington, and all the openings and emoluments of that chair.

Pinchback's entry in the Senate, where he claimed a seat among the Shermans and Wilsons, Boutwells and Camerons, grave and conscript fathers of the republic, raised a storm which has not yet subsided, though twenty-two months have passed since he first laid his credentials on the table of that house.

A committee was appointed by the Senate to investigate his claim. The members of this committee had to see that Pinch's credentials were in order; among other things to see that they were signed and sealed by a lawful governor. Then the whole question of Kellogg's government came up. A good majority of the committee were Republicans, and to give Pinch his seat was to strengthen their party by a vote. *But such a finding was impossible for serious men. The Senators found that Kellogg was not Governor of Louisiana; that his signature was worthless; that the broad seal of Louisiana had been improperly used; and that Pinchback had no claim to sit in Congress. [19]

A debate arose on their report. No case was ever argued in the Senate with more frankness of expression. Three Senators in five would have been glad, for party reasons, to support Kellogg and admit Pinchback; but the Senators were driven by facts to a conclusion dead against their party interests, and extremely honourable to them as individual gentlemen. A long debate ended in the adoption of the committee's report. The Senate not only declared that Kellogg was not the lawful Governor of Louisiana, and Pinchback not the lawful Senator for Louisiana, but directed that a new election should be held, so that the “reign of anarchy” might be put down in true republican fashion, by a public vote.

When pressed by the Senate to explain his action, President Grant admitted that the late election in Louisiana was “a gigantic fraud.” He yielded to the Senate, that a new election ought to be held, so as to ascertain whether General McEnery or William P. Kellogg was the popular choice; but he reserved to his cabinet the right of choosing a convenient time for calling on the citizens of Louisiana to exercise their right. [20]

All parties being now agreed that the late elections were void, Warmoth remained, as he contended, the legal Governor, bound to keep his seat and hold the Seal till his successor had been named.

Nothing was done towards carrying out these wishes of the Senate, these conclusions of the President. Kellogg was afraid to face a second vote. Promises had been made to the Negroes which he could not keep. The Negro brain is dull, and offers must be made in very plain terms. Thousands of Negro votes had been obtained by a promise of “forty acres of land and a stout mule” for each vote. Thousands of Negroes were annoyed at the postponement of these lands and mules, and it was dangerous to tempt them in their angry mood. So Kellogg was allowed by President Grant to put off the new elections to a safer time.

Two Senates and three Governors contended with each other for the mastery of New Orleans. No man could tell where his allegiance lay. The reign of anarchy was complete.

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