Friday, June 28, 2013

Virginia Flyer, 1901--"No White Man to Lose His Vote"

1901 Flyer--"No White Man to Lose His Vote"

Written by Democrats State Chairman Ellyson, John Goode (President of the 1901 Constitutional Convention), and A.J. Montague (the party's nominee for governor) in an attempt to assure the white electorate that their right to vote would remain undisturbed as they sought to extinguish African-American suffrage.  [Broadside 1901.N68, Special Collections Department, University of Virginia.]

No White Man to Lose His Vote in Virginia: This Assurance Given by Men who are Most Competent to Speak with Authority. : A Meeting was Held in Richmond on October 17, 1901, at which Chairman Ellyson Presided and Hon. John Goode and Mr. Montague Made Speeches-- All Three Declared the Policy of the Convention in Language that Cannot be Mistaken. : Great Enthusiasm Aroused. : State Chairman Ellyson. "The Best Men in this Commonwealth Have Been Selected as the Representatives of Their People in the Convention."

Members and Officers of The Constitutional Convention of Virginia, Richmond—1901–1902

... : Hon. John Goode. "The Democratic Party is Pledged in Its Platform to Eliminate the Ignorant and Worthless Negro as a Factor from the Politics of this State Without Taking the Right of Suffrage from a Single White Man." ... : Hon. A.J. Montague. "The Democratic Party, Through Its Representatives in the Convention is Slowly, But Surely, Framing a Law that Will So Effectually Exclude the Idle, Shiftless and Illiterate of the Negro Race from the Suffrage that the Gates of Republican Wrath Cannot Prevail Against It."

Legacy of the 1902 Constitution

From  The Encyclopedia of Virginia  --  Once implemented, the 1902 Constitution achieved its intended purpose of drastically reducing the number of eligible voters. Voting rates dropped correspondingly, with 88,000 fewer ballots cast in the 1905 gubernatorial election than in the previous election in 1901. The number of voters in presidential elections similarly dropped between 1888 and 1928. Although as many as 15,000 African Americans managed to vote after 1902, they were significantly disempowered politically. Efforts by some African Americans to pursue lawsuits against the constitution were dismissed by the courts, the last in 1908. At the same time, the disenfranchisement provisions failed to address the issue of corruption genuinely, as the reduction in voters led to officeholders beholden to the political organizations that had brought them into power. Other legal changes brought about by the convention included the abolition of the county court system in favor of granting the Democratic-dominated General Assembly the authority to choose judges and other local officials.

The 1902 Constitution created a new legal enforcement of Jim Crow and further solidified its social enforcement. Despite that dark legacy, the convention did enact some genuine reforms, including a commission to regulate the railroads, provisions regarding workmen's compensation, and a State Corporation Commission that addressed issues of industrialization and helped create a certain degree of economic stability within Virginia. The 1902 Constitution remained in effect throughout most of the twentieth century until a new state constitutional commission sought to revise it, resulting in the significant legal advances of the Virginia Constitution of 1971.

Time Line
  • 1869 - John C. Underwood, a Republican judge who dominated the year's constitutional convention in the absence of boycotting Democrats, helps to draft a constitution for Virginia that includes full suffrage for all males twenty-one years or older, including African Americans.
  • March 6, 1894 - The Virginia General Assembly narrowly passes the controversial Walton Act, which mandates what is known as the "Australian ballot," or a uniform ballot issued by the state and not by a political party. The law institutes secret voting and appoints a special constable who is the ballot reader for the physically disqualified and the illiterate.
  • May 24, 1900 - Virginia voters approve a proposed constitutional convention by state referendum.
  • June 12, 1901–April 4, 1902 - An elected body of one hundred delegates convene in Richmond for a constitutional convention, and debate for almost a year.
  • July 10, 1902 - Virginia's Constitution of 1902 becomes law, disenfranchising thousands of poor whites and nearly eliminating the state's African American electorate. It replaces Virginia's 1869 Reconstruction-era constitution, which had a universal male suffrage clause. The new constitution also creates the State Corporation Commission to regulate the railroads.
  • November 7, 1905 - Largely because of the voting restrictions implemented by the Constitution of 1902, 88,000 fewer ballots are cast in the gubernatorial election than in the previous election in 1901.
  • July 1, 1971 - The Constitution of 1971 becomes law and ends the rules and regulations instituted by the Constitution of 1902. (source: The Encyclopedia of Virginia)


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