What must be the Status of the Colored Race?


By 1867, the growing rift in the Republican Party that was perceived by some to be undermining the efforts of Unionists to stop the still strong Secessionists from challenging the newly reconstituted state and federal laws that were being enacted.

In Holden’s memoirs we find his own thoughts reflective of the emotional turmoil facing the nation as a whole: how and to what extent would race be a factor in defining citizenship. In the Standard of April 24, 1865, he wrote:

One of the most difficult and perplexing questions to be settled is the relation which must subsist in the future in this state between the white and black populations. Everyone agrees that slavery will cease to exist, but the question now is, What must be the relative condition of the two races for the next few months? And, What must be the ultimate status of the colored race?

The negro is not to blame for any of the sufferings entailed upon him by this war. It is not his fault that the children of Washington have been destroying each other in battle, nor can he reproach himself with the reflection that he has contributed either by word or deed to the privations and sufferings he is now enduring. He has been docile, and faithful, and even affectionate towards his owners for long generations; and when we add the fact that he is the innocent cause of all this strife and all this bloodshed, we perceive at once that he has strong claims on the sympathy of every right thinking person.

Governor Brownlow, of Tennessee, whose judgment in all matters is entitled to respect, is in favor of providing for the colored race a separate and appropriate amount of territory, and settling them down permanently as a nation of freedmen, - and there is much force and propriety, it seems to us, in this suggestion, for the two races could not well live in harmony together as free races; but the question still presents itself, What must meanwhile be the condition of the colored race?

From: Memoirs of William H. Holden at Documenting the American South: http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/holden/holden.html

At the time, Tourgee was editing the Union Register in Greensboro, and must have been attacking the National Standard, a publication owned by William Holden. In a letter marked “Private” from William Dunn, Jr., dated April 20, 1867, Dunn (a notary from Lenoir County in North Carolina), he entreats Tourgee to do what he can to ameliorate the situation, “…instead of aiding to pull each other down, the Register and Standard should be earnestly engaged in holding each other up, and bringing your guns to bear on a common enemy.” Dunn’s letter identifies the names of various men associated with the Conservative Democrats, referring to these men as the “united Destructives” who come together, despite the “old” and “new” factions among them, solely attracted by the weakness of the Republican Party. Dunn reminds Tourgee of the precarious position the Southern loyalists have maintained saying, “It was worth something to stand against that party (Conservative Democrats) in this state during the war. It was different at the North. It was easy – easier than any other – to be a Union man there. Opposing and endeavoring to thwart the secessionists here was about all we could do.”

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Letter, William Dunn, Jr., to Albion Winegar Tourgée, 1867-04-20. Courtesy of Chautauqua County Historical Society.

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