The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Friday, June 25, 2004
South Carolina legislature under Radical Reconstruction
One of the best-known scenes of DW Griffith's Birth of a Nation is the unflattering tableau of the South Carolina House of Representatives .
Griffith's main source for the flick was the works of Thomas Dixon, The Leopard's Spots and, mainly , The Clansman. (Scenes of Negroes and carpetbaggers enjoying Liberty Hall in both the Leopard (p109ff) and the Clansman (p263ff.)
An earlier - if not the original - source for legislative mayhem in South Carolina under Reconstruction is JS Pike (James Shepherd Pike), who, it seems, who wrote for Horace Greeley's New York Tribune on the subject .
Pike's pieces, written in early 1873, were collected in a book published in 1874 entitled The Prostrate State.. An etext is available .
A sample from Chapter 1 (page 12):
...The wealth, the intelligence, the culture, the wisdom of the State, have broken through the crust of that social volcano on which they were contentedly reposing, and have sunk out of sighlt, consumed by the subterranean fires they had with such temerity braved and defied.
And this written for a Northern liberal rag! By 1874, I hypothesise, even the liberal element in New York were heartily sick of Reconstruction, and appreciative of anything that might hasten its demise .
For all his high dudgeon on Southern antics, Pike, it seems, was not averse to dipping his snout in the trough of patronage: according to a promising-looking piece on Lincoln and the New York press, Pike was made US Minister to The Hague by Lincoln .
Dixon actually uses Pike's words
rioting in the halls of his masterfor the heading of the chapter of The Clansman on the subject: The Riot in the Master's Hall
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