New Orleans Riots

BLACK HISTORY   |   Benjamin BOYER

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TRIGGERING "THE SECOND PHASE OF THE CIVIL WAR… WHAT FORT SUMTER WAS TO THE FIRST. BUT THIS TIME THE REBELS WON": EXCEEDINGLY SCARCE FIRST EDITION OF THE CONGRESSIONAL MINORITY REPORT ON THE 1866 "ABSOLUTE MASSACRE" IN NEW ORLEANS

(BLACK HISTORY) (BOYER, Benjamin Markley). New Orleans Riots. Minority Report. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1867). Slim octavo, original self-wrappers: pp. 24, later stitching. $1800.

First edition of the controversial Minority Report on the July 1866 mob violence in New Orleans, proclaimed an "absolute massacre" by General Sheridan as white police joined anti-Unionist rebels in the assault and murder of nearly 40 Black men and women, feared by many Northerners as the spark in "a reign of terror," in fragile original self-wrappers.

"The Civil War did not end at Appomattox." Aided by President Johnson's amnesty proclamation and pardons for many Confederates, Unionists in New Orleans were especially powerless. After Louisiana's 1866 legislature refused to consider suffrage for Black men, some Unionist delegates seized on an earlier convention's oversight in order to reconvene it, calling for a state constitutional amendment to "disenfranchise former Confederates and enfranchise Blacks" (Hollandsworth, Absolute Massacre, 1-2). As delegates assembled on July 30, 1866, fights broke out in the streets and convention hall. Violence quickly escalated "into what General Sheridan later called 'an absolute massacre,' with Blacks assaulted indiscriminately" and delegates shot down. By the time federal troops finally arrived, there were nearly 40 Blacks killed and over 100 wounded as police "joined in the assault." The son of Lincoln's Vice President Hamlin called it "wholesale slaughter" (Foner, Reconstruction, 263). When a grand jury swiftly blamed Black men and delegates for starting the violence, many Northerners grew convinced "white southerners were determined to unleash a reign of terror on the recently emancipated slaves" (Donald, When the Rule of Law Breaks Down, 1642).

The next year Congress issued its official Report on New Orleans, along with this Minority Report by Pennsylvania's Benjamin Boyer, who had supported Stephen Douglas over Lincoln and served in Congress from 1865-69. Boyer here states the deadly mobs in New Orleans "must be treated as a mere local disturbance" and blames the violence on Unionist leaders and delegates, based on select testimony by some who claimed Blacks were incited to kill rebels and told "the streets must run with their blood" (emphasis in original). Spurred by New Orleans, Congress was briefly able to pass laws mandating "every southern state had to accept universal male suffrage as a condition for readmission," including Louisiana in April 1868. Soon, however, in what is seen as the "second phase of the Civil War," New Orleans came to represent "what Fort Sumter was to the first. But this time the rebels won… although the Confederacy had lasted only four years… disfranchised, terrorized and marginalized Black southerners had to wait for more than a century before the events set in motion by the New Orleans riot on July 30, 1866 were finally put to rest" (Hollandsworth, 3, 150). First edition, first printing. Library of Congress. Tiny inkstamped date above first text page.

Text generally fresh with expert repairs to wrappers, later stitching in original stab holes. A very scarce near-fine copy.

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