"Because the Principles of Lincoln Had Ceased To Be A Virtue":

The Campaign of 1897, Part 3

As the black independent ticket took shape, it featured a curious mix of old-guard and neophyte leadership. Prominent among the former was Dr. H.J. Brown, veteran from black Baltimore's antebellum era, and civil rights activist of the post-war years. With the waining of patronage in the late-1870s, men like Brown found themselves increasingly and, they felt, unjustly marginalized from the benefits of politics in the nineteenth century sense. As well, they felt the time had long-since past when black men should stand alone in control the affairs of the black community, and stand as equals with white men in directing the affairs of the larger community.

Neophytes to the Baltimore political scene and the black struggle therein were represented in the person George Motley Lane, an attorney whose family had migrated to Baltimore from Virginia in the decades following the Civil War. Blacks of Lane's generation new nothing first-hand of America in the age of slavery. They were armed with education, legal rights, and expectations of equality. Both Brown and Lane were representative of the rank and file mugwumps in their movement. That men of such disparate background and life experience would come together to form the nucleus of political dissidence speaks to the pessimism with which ambitious blacks must have viewed their prospects in the Republican Party (to say nothing of the Democrats). As Lane would later describe it, "many of us [blacks] arrested our blind adherence to the name of the Republican party because the princples of Lincoln had ceased to be a virtue and become a political mockery." In spite of its motivation, in many ways, the movement was doomed to failure from the outset.

With roughly six weeks between the Malster renegging and the November election, the first order of business facing the black mugwumps was to secure a place as nominees on the official ballots. For this, a requisite number of voter signatures had to be obtained. Lane, Brown, their running mates and supporters began stumping for support throughout the black wards of the city. While the movement remained visible thanks to coverage in the Sun and the American, division within the black leadership elite threatened the movement's success. While the promise of black representation among the nominees to Annapolis had been broken, Harry S. Cummings still held out hope for a councilmanic victory with the help of Malster's supporters. Thus, Cummings and a number of the pastors of the city's larger black churches came out for the Malster ticket, lending their names and the pulpits to that cause. Ironically, their message to white republicans was the same as the bolters: "we deserve the same consideration as other men." Pleas to stay the course of the Republican were heard everywhere in black Baltimore. As well, Malster himself and his top aides made several appearences in black neighborhoods, on occassion accompanied by national black republican figures such as Reconstruction-era politician, P.B.S. Pinchback. The Independents, no matter how powerful their words, could not match the glitz and pageantry of the Malster effort in black Baltimore.

While discouraged by the high-profile divisions within the city's black leadership elite, the Committee of One Hundred must have drawn strength from the fact that their movement had flowered in to several like movements throughout the state. Rev. S. Timothy Tice, of Annapolis, Maryland's Mt. Moriah African Methodist Episcopal Church, soon-to-be publisher of the Negro Appeal, worked for a black mugwump effort in Anne Arundel Co., apparently coordinating activities, at least on some level, with his Baltimore City counterparts led by George Lane. Likewise, in Baltimore County, an independent movement of blacks was inaugurated, meeting with same reaction from whites and conservative blacks. As N. Rufus White, a leader of the Baltimore County effort put it, "because I have dared to assert my political manhood, I am denounced in the most unjust manner."

Weeks passed and it appeared that a challenge to the validity of signatures to black independents' nomination papers would be mounted. With this latest development politicians from opposing camps began making "room" for the bolters to move back into the mainstream fold, as doubtlessly many did. However, even as the Malsterites attempted to put on a welcoming facade for former dissidents, their true sentiments were betrayed time and again in condescending, historically inaccurate remarks delivered at the many political rallies leading up to election day. For example, in an attempt to apologize and excuse the renegging of political nomination as simply the nature of politics, Oscar L. Quinlan, speaking to a gathering on Pennsylvania Avenue advised blacks, "Do not expect too much of a political party, but trust yourselves and work out your own redemption like the white man." Smacking of a racist condescention -- never explaining what, if not power and position, the black voter stood to gain from affiliating with the republican party, Quinlan continued, "only labor of hand and brain, labor by day and night, has the white man come out of barbarian darkness an set himself in the first place among the races of the earth," concluding, "And there is no other road to that height than by labor." In many ways, Quinlan's remarks validated suspicions of the black bolters: the Republican Party of the late-19th century could and would never carry the black cause to the point were it might compromise the social and political advantages of whites, irrespective of the way in which those advantages had been attained or maintained historically.

Copyright: Maryland State Archives, 1997