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    Reconstruction-Era Petition Addressed to President Ulysses S. Grant, Signed by Many Leading African American and White Republicans from Mississippi, 1873. One page, 8.5" x 26.5", Jackson, Mississippi; January 28, 1873. The petition, addressed to President Grant, recommends that E. D. Fisher be retained as postmaster at Jackson, Mississippi. The petition is accompanied by a cover letter, two pages on Fisher's official stationery as postmaster, 8" x 10.5", Jackson, Mississippi; February 7, 1873, from Fisher to George C. McKee, Congressman representing Jackson in the U.S. House of Representatives.

    The petition is signed by 45 of Mississippi's leading political figures, including at least 7 African Americans. The signers include R. C. Powers (1836-1912), governor of Mississippi; J.S. Morris (1827-1890), attorney general; H. R. Pease, an abolitionist who served as superintendent of education; E. G. Peyton, chief justice of the of the supreme court of Mississippi; and M. Shaughnessy, U. S. marshal for the Southern District of Mississippi. The African-Americans who signed the petition are Hiram Rhoads Revels (1827-1901), a minister, politician, and college administrator who served as the first African American and Native American to serve in the U.S. Congress when he was elected to the U.S. Senate from Mississippi in 1870-1871. When he signed this petition, he was serving as Mississippi's secretary of state; Charles Caldwell (1831-1875), was a blacksmith, state legislator, and leader of the Republican Party in Hines County, Mississippi, who was born to slave parents in Kentucky. He was the first African American to be acquitted of murdering a white man in the state by an all-white jury. He was assassinated in 1875; William H. Harney, presidential elector from the 5th congressional district who was the first African American to be elected sheriff of Hinds County, Mississippi; Milton Stamps, a councilman; and Monroe Bell, Charles Reese, William Johnson, who were elected as representatives from Hinds County in the Mississippi State Legislature in 1871.

    The petition is a remarkable document, not so much for its content as the fact that it is signed by African American civic and political leaders, something that would have never happened in any Southern state before Reconstruction (1865-1876) and for many years after. Mississippi was the second state after South Carolina to secede from the United States and was the last to return to the Union. Like South Carolina, Mississippi was one of the states of the Confederacy with a population in which African Americans made up the majority, which resulted in a long and divisive Reconstruction period. In May 1865, President Andrew Johnson issued guidelines for re-admittance of the former Confederate states into the Union based on the Reconstruction plans developed by President Lincoln before he was assassinated: amnesty to individuals who took an oath of loyalty to the United States, with the exception of Confederates who had held high civil or military offices during the war and those who had owned property worth $20,000 or more in 1860. These individuals had to apply for a presidential pardon. When 10 percent of the voters in a state had taken the oath of loyalty, the state could form a legal government and rejoin the Union. In Mississippi, Reconstruction was vigorously resisted when in November 1865 the newly elected state legislature enacted draconian Black Codes, the purpose of which was to severely limit the civil and social rights of blacks. The Republican Congress decided to take action in order to guarantee the civil and social rights of African Americans in Mississippi as well as in other states of the former Confederacy.

    The enclosed petition reads as follows:

    "To His Excellency U. S. Grant, President of the United States.
    Sir,
    We, the undersigned, respectfully recommend that E.D. Fisher, now Postmaster at Jackson, Mississippi, be retained in office under the incoming administration."

    Congressional measures on behalf of African Americans resulted in one of the greatest, if short-lived successes of Reconstruction: black participation in democracy, both as voters and office holders. At least 226 black Mississippians held public office and the state sent the first two (and only) black senators of this period to Congress. Republican Congressional Reconstruction led to a backlash by Southerner Democrats committed to white supremacy, who via terrorist groups used intimidation and violence to halt progress. Unfortunately, the intimidation tactics worked over time, with Democratic candidates replacing every Republican incumbent in the 1875 elections. By 1876, Reconstruction was over.

    Condition: The petition and the cover letter have the usual folds. Some small areas of staining, and toning at folds. The petition is composed of two 8.5" x 13.75" sheets pasted together at the ends with light adhesive stains which do not affect the writing. Overall good condition.


    More Information:

    Edwin D. Fisher (b. circa 1843), born in Ohio, was nominated for the post of deputy postmaster at Jackson on March 31, 1869, weeks after his first inauguration as president. By 1870, he was serving as postmaster at Jackson, and was reappointed by Grant on March 13, 1873, several days after he was inaugurated for his second term in office.

     

    George Colin McKee (1837-1890) was born in Joliet, Illinois and attended Knox College and Lombard College in Galesburg, Illinois.  He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1858, practicing for a time in Centralia, Illinois and serving as city attorney from 1858-1861.  During the Civil War McKee served in the 11th Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry. After the war, he relocated to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where he resumed the practice of law. In 1868, McKee served as a member of the State constitutional convention and then was elected as a Republican to the Fortieth U.S. Congress, but his credentials were never presented to the House of Representatives. He subsequently elected as a Republican to the Forty-first, Forty-second, and Forty-third Congresses (March 4, 1869-March 3, 1875), where he served as chairman of the Committee on Territories (Forty-third Congress). McKee was appointed postmaster of Jackson, Mississippi, serving from June 1881 to November 1885, after which he resumed his law practice until his death in Jackson.





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