By Robert Goldman

"A loose poll and a good count number" examines the efforts via the dept of Justice to enforce the federal laws glided by Congress in 1870-71 often called the Enforcement Acts. those legislation have been designed to implement the vote casting rights promises for African-Americans below the lately ratified 15th modification. The Enforcement Acts set forth a number of federally enforceable crimes geared toward struggling with white southerners' makes an attempt to disclaim or limit black suffrage. There are numerous facets of this paintings that distinguish it from different, past works during this sector. opposite to older interpretative experiences, Goldman's fundamental thesis is that, the federal government's makes an attempt to guard black vote casting rights within the South didn't stop with the superb Court's antagonistic rulings in U.S. v. Reese and U.S. v. Cruikshank in 1875. Nor, it really is argued, did enforcement efforts stop on the finish of Reconstruction and the so-called Compromise of 1877. relatively, federal enforcement efforts after 1877 mirrored the continuing dedication of Republican social gathering leaders, for either humanitarian and partisan purposes, to what got here to be known as "the unfastened poll and a good count." one other designated element of this publication is its specialise in the function of the federal division of Justice and its officers within the South within the persevered enforcement attempt. Created as a cabinet-level government division in 1870, the Justice division proved ill-equipped to answer the common felony and extra-legal resistance to black suffrage through white southern Democrats within the years in the course of and after Reconstruction. the dep. confronted various inner difficulties similar to inadequate assets, terrible communications, and native body of workers frequently appointed extra for his or her political acceptability than their prosecutorial or felony talents. by means of the early Nineties, whilst the election legislation have been eventually repealed through Congress, enforcement efforts have been sporadic at most sensible and principally unsuccessful. the tip of federal involvement, coupled with the wave of southern nation structure revisions, led to the disfranchisement of nearly all of African-American citizens within the South by means of the start of the 20 th Century. it's going to no longer be until eventually the Nineteen Sixties and the "Second Reconstruction" that the government, and the Justice division, may once more try and make sure the "free poll and a good count".

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Extra resources for A free ballot and a fair count: the Department of Justice and the enforcement of voting rights in the South, 1877-1893

Sample text

And even more critical to the amendment’s of suchlegislation. effectiveness would betheenforcement Hence,while the Fifteenth Amendmentdid represent an attempt at achieving the Radical goal of black suffrage, it also 8 ”A FREE BALLOT AND A FAIR COUNT” left open the possibilityof the ultimate frustrationof that goalif ”appropriate” legislation was not provided or enforced. The importance of additional legislation was understood by Republicans, and followingtheratification of theFifteenth Amendment in1870, Congress passed a series of three acts commonly known as the Enforcement Acts.

The Enforcement Act of May 1870 gave the federal government,and in particular the Department of Justice, direct responsibility for making sure that the Fifteenth Amendment’s goal of at least impartial suffrage in the South would be maintained. 23 Though it was not until1875 that judicial cases dealingwith the constitutionalityof the Enforcement Acts reached the United States Supreme Court, in 1871 Circuit Court Judge William B. Woods of Alabama upheld a seriesof indictments under the acts in United States v.

Effective enforcement of constitutionally and politically supported voting rights might have precluded this process. In this sense, the ”free ballot and a fair count” between 1877 and 1893had its own strange career. NOTES 1. Rayford Logan, The Betrayal of the Negro (New York, 1954), chap. 5. 2. C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow,3d ed. (New York, 1975), 32-33. 3. For discussion on the background and passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, see William Gillette, The Right to Vote: Politics and the Passage ofthe Fifteenth Amendment(Baltimore, 1969),and chap.

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