Finley vs. Walls. Papers in the Case

Jesse J. FINLEY   |   Josiah T. WALLS

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Item#: 125282 price:$3,800.00

Finley vs. Walls. Papers in the Case
Finley vs. Walls. Papers in the Case


WALLS, Josiah T., FINLEY, Jesse J. Finley vs. Walls. Papers in the Case of Jesse J. Finley vs Josiah T. Walls, Second Congressional District of Florida. (Washington, (D.C.): Government Printing Office, 1876). Octavo, recent full speckled sheep gilt, red morocco spine label; pp. 196. $3800.

First edition of the official printing of the House of Representative record in an opponent's dispute over the election of Josiah Walls to the 44th Congress, with Walls, born enslaved and a veteran of Black Civil War regiments, having earlier survived an assassination attempt in his initial election to Congress in 1871, where he declared in his "first major floor speech… 'I believe that the national government is the guardian of the liberties of all its subjects.'"

"Black leaders in the early days of Reconstruction… were notable precisely for their unwillingness to acquiesce silently to the conservative race policies of the Republican Party. Ranging in background from Robert Brown Elliot, college-educated in England, to Josiah T. Walls, a former slave, the Black elite of Reconstruction generated and sustained a steady flow of criticism aimed at the Republicans' lack of commitment to racial progress" (Klingman, Geithman, Negro Dissidence, 172). Walls, who served in the Union Army's 3rd Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) and as first sergeant in the 35th regiment USCT, began his political career representing Alachua County in the 1868 Florida constitutional convention… the following fall, he was elected to the state senate and took his seat as one of five freedmen in the 24–man chamber in January 1869." Walls would then become "the first African American to serve his state in Congress. The only Black Representative from Florida until the early 1990s, Walls was unseated twice on the recommendation of the House Committee on Elections. When he was not fiercely defending his seat in Congress, Walls fought for internal improvements for Florida… compulsory education and economic opportunity for all races" (U.S. House of Representatives).

Amidst escalating KKK violence, southern white Republicans feared "Democrats would capture the election in the absence of the black votes" and nominated Wells to face "former slave owner and Confederate veteran Silas Niblack, who argued a 'former slave was not educated enough to serve in Congress.'" Walls, who struggled against cautious Republicans and often violent Democrats in his congressional tenure, countered Niblack's racism in debates and at political rallies. "The campaign was violent; a would–be assassin's bullet missed Walls by inches," but in 1871 he emerged victorious, to be sworn in as a member of the 42nd Congress as "the first African American to serve his state in Congress. The only Black Representative from Florida until the early 1990s… [he] advocated compulsory education and economic opportunity for all races: 'We demand that our lives, our liberties and our property shall be protected by the strong arm of our government.'" When Niblack fought the election, claiming voting intimidation, Walls noted he lost more votes due to KKK intimidation, but he was said to lack evidence and Niblack was belatedly named winner. Nevertheless Walls was later elected as one of "the two At-Large seats in the 43rd Congress" and returned in 1873.

In the 42nd and 43rd Congresses, Walls "sought funding to improve Florida's harbors and rivers and to create a land–grant state agricultural college." He made education the issue of "his first major floor speech on February 3, 1872: 'I believe that the national government is the guardian of the liberties of all its subjects… Can [African Americans] protect their liberties without education… can this be done without the aid, assistance, and supervision of the General Government? No, sir, it cannot.'" When he defeated his white opponent Jesse Finley by a slim 51 percent margin to be elected to the 44th Congress, Finley challenged the vote as is documented in Finley vs. Walls. When the debate moved to the House Floor, "not one of Walls' six Black colleagues was allowed to speak, although Walls briefly took the floor in his own defense." The year after he was unseated by the Democrat-controlled House Committee on Elections, Reconstruction ended in Florida. Walls subsequently won a seat in the Florida state senate but, increasingly discouraged at the failure of Reconstruction, he took a permanent leave of absence in 1879. Walls would declare: "I reluctantly confess, after so many years of concessions, that unless partisan and sectional feeling shall lose more of its rancor… fundamental law will be disregarded, overthrown and trampled underfoot, and a complete reign of terror and anarchy will rule supreme." In 1890, at his defeat in another bid for the state senate, Walls "took charge of the farm at Florida Normal College (now Florida A&M University)" until his death in 1905 (U.S. House of Representatives). First edition: with stated: "January 25, 1876—Ordered to be printed… 44th Congress, 1st Session. House of Representatives. Mis. Doc. No. 58." Without fragile original paper wrappers. Not in Blockson.

Text very fresh with only small gutter-edge paper repair not affecting text. Handsomely bound.

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