John Tyler Morgan

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John Tyler Morgan
John t morgan.jpg
United States Senator
from Alabama
In office
March 4, 1877 – June 11, 1907
Preceded by George Goldthwaite
Succeeded by John H. Bankhead
Personal details
Born (1824-06-20)June 20, 1824
Athens, Tennessee
Died June 11, 1907(1907-06-11) (aged 82)
Washington, D.C.
Military service
Allegiance  Confederate States of America
Service/branch  Confederate States Army
Years of service 1861–1865
Rank Confederate States of America General.png Brigadier General
Battles/wars American Civil War

John Tyler Morgan (June 20, 1824 – June 11, 1907) was a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War, a six-term U.S. senator from the state of Alabama after the war and a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. He was a strong supporter of states rights and racial segregation through the Reconstruction era. He was an expansionist, arguing for the annexation of the Republic of Hawaii and for U.S. construction of an interoceanic canal in Central America.

Early life and career[edit]

Morgan was born in Athens, Tennessee into a family of Welsh origin whose ancestor James B. Morgan [1] (1607–1704) settled in the Connecticut Colony. John T. Morgan was initially educated by his mother. In 1833, he moved with his parents to Calhoun County, Alabama, where he attended frontier schools and then studied law in Tuskegee with justice William Parish Chilton, his brother-in-law. After admission to the bar he established a practice in Talledega. Ten years later, Morgan moved to Dallas County and resumed the practice of law in Selma and Cahaba.

Turning to politics, Morgan became a presidential elector on the Democratic ticket in 1860, and supported John C. Breckinridge. He was delegate from Dallas County to the State Convention of 1861, which passed the ordinance of secession.

Civil War[edit]

With Alabama's vote to leave the Union, at the age of 37 Morgan enlisted as a private in the Cahaba Rifles, which volunteered its services in the Confederate Army and was assigned to the 5th Alabama Infantry. He first saw action at the First Battle of Manassas in the summer of 1861. Morgan rose to major and then lieutenant colonel, serving under Col. Robert E. Rodes, a future Confederate general. Morgan resigned in 1862 and returned to Alabama, where in August he recruited a new regiment, the 51st Alabama Partisan Rangers, becoming its colonel. He led it at the Battle of Murfreesborough, operating in cooperation with the cavalry of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

When Rodes was promoted to major general and given a division in the Army of Northern Virginia, Morgan declined an offer to command Rodes's old brigade and instead remained in the Western Theater, leading troops at the Battle of Chickamauga. On November 16, 1863, he was appointed as a brigadier general of cavalry and participated in the Knoxville Campaign. His brigade consisted of the 1st, 3rd, 4th (Russell's), 9th, and 51st Alabama Cavalry regiments.

His men were routed and dispersed by Federal cavalry on January 27, 1864. He was reassigned to a new command and fought in the Atlanta Campaign. Subsequently, his men harassed William T. Sherman's troops during the March to the Sea. Later, he was assigned to administrative duty in Demopolis, Alabama. When the Confederacy collapsed and the war ended, Morgan was trying to organize Alabama black troops for home defense.

Postbellum career[edit]

Morgan, circa 1875

After the war, Morgan resumed the practicing of law in Selma, Alabama. After the death of James H. Clanton in 1872, Morgan succeeded him as the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama.[1][2] He was once again presidential elector on the Democratic ticket in 1876 and was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate in that year, being re-elected in 1882, 1888, 1894, 1900, and 1906, and serving from March 4, 1877, until his death. For much of his tenure, he served as Senator alongside a fellow former Confederate general, Edmund W. Pettus.

Morgan advocated for separating blacks and whites in the U.S. by encouraging the migration of black people out of the U.S. south. Hochschild wrote, "at various times in his long career Morgan also advocated sending them [negroes] to Hawaii, to Cuba, and to the Philippines - which, perhaps because the islands were so far away, he claimed were a "native home of the negro."[3]

He introduced and fought for numerous legislative bills in support of legal lynching.[citation needed] Morgan also staunchly worked for the repeal of the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that was intended to prevent the denial of voting rights based on race.[4] He was chairman of Committee on Rules (Forty-sixth Congress), the Committee on Foreign Relations (Fifty-third Congress), the Committee on Interoceanic Canals (Fifty-sixth and Fifty-seventh Congresses), and the Committee on Public Health and National Quarantine (Fifty-ninth Congress). In 1894, Morgan chaired an investigation, known as the Morgan Report into the Hawaiian Revolution which concluded that the U.S. had remained completely neutral in the matter. He authored the introduction to the Morgan Report based on the findings of the investigative committee.

He was a strong supporter of the annexation of Hawaii and visited Hawaii in 1897 in support of annexation. He believed that the history of the U.S. clearly indicated it was unnecessary to hold a plebiscite in Hawaii as a condition for annexation. He was appointed by President William McKinley in July 1898 to the commission created by the Newlands Resolution to establish government in the Territory of Hawaii. A strong advocate for a Central American canal, Morgan was also a staunch supporter of the Cuban revolutionaries in the 1890s.

The most recent study of Morgan by Joseph A. Fry suggests an alternate reason for Morgan's desires for American expansionism in the 1890s. Morgan may have figured that the expanded territories in Latin American would center their economic development in the Southern states, not the Northern ones, and this would undo the economic dominion of the North due to its victory of 1865. As it turned out the expansion in the wake of the Spanish American War did not lead to creating a southern United States economic domination.

Death and legacy[edit]

Senator Morgan died in Washington, D.C. while still in office. He was buried in Live Oak Cemetery in Selma, Alabama. The remainder of his term was served by John H. Bankhead.

An article by history professor Thomas Adams Upchurch in the April 2004 Alabama Review says:

His congressional speeches and published writings demonstrate the central role that Morgan played in the drama of racial politics on Capitol Hill and in the national press from 1889 to 1891. More importantly, they reveal his leadership in forging the ideology of white supremacy that dominated American race relations from the 1890s to the 1960s. Indeed, Morgan emerged as the most prominent and notorious racist ideologue of his day, a man who, as much as any other individual, set the tone for the coming Jim Crow era."[5]

In 1908, the Congressman from Alabama, Mr. Heflin, in describing both recently deceased Senators Edmund Pettus and John Tyler Morgan said the following, “the ballot, that which represented privileges and powers for which the quick-witted Celt and the thoughtful Saxon had struggled a thousand years to achieve, was given in the twinkling of an eye to the unfit hordes of an inferior race. . . .No two men in Alabama, or in the South, did more to stay the hideous tide of negro domination than the two dearly beloved Senators whose death the House mourns to-day. In the dark and trying days of reconstruction these two men were foremost among the defenders of Anglo-Saxon civilization.” See: "John Tyler Morgan and Edmund Winston Pettus- Memorial Addresses-Sixtieth Congress, First Session, Senate of the United States, April 18, 1908. House of Representatives, April 25, 1908," ed. United States Congress (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1909). 188-189.

Notable quotes[edit]

"The snows will fall from heaven in sooty blackness, sooner than the white women of the United States will consent to the maternity of negro families.[6]"

"It has become the solemn necessity on our part to protect the Caucasian race on this continent against the intrusion of Oriental people.[7]"

Memorialization[edit]

  • John T. Morgan Academy in Selma is named for Morgan. Founded in 1965, the private school originally held classes in Morgan's old house.
  • Morgan Hall on the campus of the University of Alabama was also named in his honor. Senator Morgan had successfully led a fight in 1882 to obtain Federal funds in reparation for the university's destruction in 1865 by Union forces.
  • Morgan's Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge, [2] in the country of Nicaragua was named for Morgan, who as a Senator had strongly advocated Nicaragua as the preferred location for an interoceanic canal, instead of Panama.
  • A memorial arch on the grounds of the Federal Building / U.S. Courthouse in Selma honors Senators Morgan and Pettus, who were instrumental in securing Federal appropriations for the State.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ku Klux Klan in Alabama during the Reconstruction Era. The Encyclopedia of Alabama
  2. ^ Davis, Susan Lawrence, Authentic history, Ku Klux Klan, 1865-1877. New York, 1924, p. 45.
  3. ^ Hochschild, Adam. King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. Mariner Books; 1st Mariner Books Ed edition (October 1999) p79-80
  4. ^ Democrats and Republicans: In Their Own Words A 124 Year History of Major Civil Rights Efforts Based on a Side-by-Side Comparison of the Early Platforms of the Two Major Political Parties "According to prominent Democrat leader A. W. Terrell of Texas, the 15th Amendment was what he called "the political blunder of the century." Democratic U. S. Rep. Bourke Cockran of New York and Democratic U.S. Senator John Tyler Morgan of Alabama agreed with Terrell and were among the Democrats seeking a repeal of the 15th Amendment."
  5. ^ Upchurch, Thomas Adams, Senator John Tyler Morgan and the Genesis of Jim Crow Ideology, 1889-1891, Alabama Review, Apr 2004
  6. ^ Imagery of Lynching: Black Men, White Women, and the Mob By Dora Apel,2004 Rutgers University Press
  7. ^ Index at www.american.edu

External links[edit]

United States Senate
Preceded by
George Goldthwaite
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Alabama
1877–1907
Served alongside: George E. Spencer, George S. Houston, Luke Pryor, James L. Pugh, Edmund W. Pettus
Succeeded by
John H. Bankhead