The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Delator rule

In 1866, Federal agents got themselves ensconced in many Texan cities. Ramsdell deals with this in pp. 129ff. When governor Throckmorton failed to enforce the Congress's imperium over Texas, the figurehead whom Congress chose in his place was one EM Pease.

Pease had been governor before Sam Houston: two terms, two years each. Ramsdell thought he did well at it. In 1866 Pease had gone for another election, which he lost to the (slightly) more conservative Throckmorton. Then Pease went to DC. After the army booted Throckmorton out, Pease came back installed into "power". Ramsdell Chapter VIII / 171f sees through "Pease's" administration as "Radical-Military Rule".

There's a street named after Pease in Houston's downtown. I like to think, this is more for his pre-Civil-War governorship, than for his sham-governorship later.

Ramsdell prefers Throckmorton but does give Pease, personally, some slack. I expect creatures like this to return bitter and vengeful and misanthropic; I know the example of Justinian II. I'm sure that Ramsdell would have loved to tell the tale of the governor out of the 1850s, 15 years on and undead and ravenous for braaaaains. But, Ramsdell couldn't, because Pease wasn't.

But really, what either of these two wanted, didn't matter much. The Federal military was in charge. The pattern under military rule was that local juries would nab a perp, and then some agent or military troop would saunter in and get him off. Kinda like... Seattle.

There's a harrowing account of Victoria (been there! it is hardly a cotton-belt town; it approaches South Texas down the 59). This happened under Throckmorton:

The negro troops stationed there under the lax command of a Captain Spaulding had taken control of the county jail and rendered it impossible for the civil authorities to keep a negro or Northern man confined there, no matter what his offense had been. ... the town was terrorized.

Then there's the account of Myrta Lockett Avary in Dixie after the war. Texas barely counts as Dixie and so Avary doesn't devote much space to it. But there was one event she had to treat as a "signal instance", in page 215:

The Bureau became the negro's partner in crime, as when its officials demanded at one time of Governor Throckmorton, of Texas, pardon and release of two hundred and twenty-seven negroes from the penitentiary, some of whom had been confined for burglary, arson, rape, murder.

It would be nice to have more records - but somehow "court records and papers were seized and destroyed or mutilated". This happened at Lockhart (a town I don't know) and Seguin (been there too! same region as Victoria... more Escarpment, less Gulf Coast I suppose). Ramsdell strongly implies it was the US military who did it.

Under Pease, the local "Unionists" - that is, opportunistic villains - "overwhelmed" Pease "with petitions, not always for offices already vacant, but more frequently for the removal of officials of 'rebel' or anti-Congressional proclivities". If they didn't get their goodies from Pease, they had other links in the chain to pull on. Ramsdell calls out General JJ Reynolds in this context as being notably bad (p. 175).

Among the white "proUnion" criminals, at least, several of them were not proUnion when it mattered - during the war - but claimed to be so now, so as to get sympathy from Texas's real masters at this time, the Federal agents. Andrew Ward in The Slaves' War, 261, records freedman Henry Clay Bruce: that his former master lost his possessions to thieves dressed as Union soldiery. Bruce and his master seem to have agreed that the thief was an impostor. This isn't even in Texas. If this were a Rebel meme; then it was very early, widespread, and consistent.

Ramsdell points out that in this atmosphere of paranoia, finding loyalists to staff essential posts was really, really hard. This might not seem intuitive. Texas wasn't Mississippi; Texas really did have loyalists. Texas was arguably almost all loyalist up to Harper's Ferry and even by 1865 it had retained many - mostly Germans. What Texas was short of, and certainly by 1867, were loyalists to Reconstruction. Fending off hoboes, "proUnion" crooks, and uniformed rapists for a couple years kinda does that to a people. So the state got staffed by... whoever sucked up hardest.

In any authoritarian system, one can expect people to take that opportunity to beg for scraps and to settle old scores. Octavian, too, had his "delators" and his lists of "proscription". Or, just ask any of us who got out of LGF - we'll give you earfuls.

posted by Zimri on 19:45 | link | 0 comments

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