New-York Tribune, July 29, 1887

New-York Tribune, July 29, 1887


No colored Republican has any rights that ought to be respected by any white man. This is a cardinal article of political faith in the Solid South; and the Administration has fully subscribed to it in theory and practice. The case of Merriman Howard illustrates the injustice and partisanship of that Administration in its dealings with the colored race at the South as well as the hollowness and falsity of its Civil Service reform pretences.

Merriman Howard is a colored man who has played a prominent and honorable part in Mississippi politics. He was Sheriff of Jefferson County for three terms, and at another time was a member of the Legislature. Lifelong Democrats of that State have united in commending him as a man possessing the respect and confidence of the community, both white and black. Judge Thomas S. Berry, of the Chancery Court at Port Gibson, describes him as a good, capable and honest official, against whom no charge of corruption or misbehavior was ever made by any white man in Jefferson County. R. H. Truly, Editor of “The Fayette Chronicle,” and chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee in Mississippi in 1876, relates a thrilling story of Sheriff Howard’s courage during the Reconstruction period. Over three hundred enraged negroes rushed from the court-house, and swarming about Mr. Truly threatened to murder him. Howard was the first man to spring to the rescue, and bravely he held his ground against the mob until the military forces came up. On another occasion he saved the life of a white man named Hunt by protecting him from assault and getting him away from a large mob of infuriated blacks. The following extract from a letter written by Claude Pintard, a Natchez lawyer, and indorsed by Dr. T. H. L. Smith, another prominent Democrat, fully sets forth Howard’s relations to the two races during the Reconstruction period:

He (Howard) was Sheriff and had more influence with his race than any man in the county, and I can cheerfully and truthfully say that influence was exerted for the benefit of all, white and colored. He was ambitious and sought office through the votes of his race, but he always counselled peace, and when his race was in power in the county peace and quiet existed between the races. And for this good influence I consider that the people of Jefferson County owe him a debt of gratitude. He has never, to my knowledge, stirred up race strife, but, on the contrary, the opposite. He was a partisan so far as exerting himself to keep his party in power, but nothing was done by him to this end but advising his race to vote for his party. I know of several instances during those troublous times when, had it not been for his influence, blood would have been shed, and it was only through his influence that such a calamity was averted.

This honest and capable colored man, for whose integrity a great number of Mississippi Democrats are willing to vouch, and whose political influence in trying times has been exerted to allay strife between the whites and blacks, was removed from office a few months ago because he was a colored Republican. He had been an assistant messenger in the Treasury Department at Washington for several years and had proved himself to be a faithful, honest and intelligent employee of the Government. He was removed on the strength of the following letter written by a Democratic Congressman notorious for his connection with election frauds and bulldozing in Mississippi:

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 26, 1886.

EUGENE HIGGINS, esq., Appointment Office.

SIR: I beg leave respectfully to state that Merriman Howard, of Jefferson County, Miss., who is now on the roll of employees in the Treasury Department, was appointed under a former Administration through partisan influence, and in consideration of partisan work in stirring up race strife and appealing to the most vicious prejudices to accomplish his purposes. I ask that he be discharged. Yours respectfully,

(Signed) E. BARKSDALE,
Rep. VIIth Miss. Dist.

A request from the chief conspirator in Mississippi against the ballot and equal rights was sufficient. Higgins at once proceeded to purge the service of an offensive partisan and a disturber of the peace between whites and blacks. In spite of all the handsome testimonials received from leading Democrats of his State, Howard was ignominiously discharged.

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