Live Chat Support

Monday, August 15, 2011

Essay on Mississippi Black Code of 1867

The United States is known all over the world as a country that promotes the ideals of liberty, freedom, justice, peace, and equality.  In many instances, the United States needed to use force in an effort to protect the citizens of other countries from a tyrannical and despotic ruler.  In many instances, the United States had succeeded in driving away leaders whom it considered as threats to democracy.  Yet, it is surprising to find out that despite its proclamation to the world that it promotes, the principles of liberty, freedom, justice, peace and equality for everyone, the United States had in the passed willfully transgressed the rights of slaves, African Americans and the minorities.    While it proudly proclaimed to have helped granting freedom to citizens of different countries, it had in the past refused to recognize the citizenship of its own people. 

The United States for several decades had institutionalized slavery.  It had treated human beings as objects which can be sold and bought.  These slaves were denied the right to vote, to be educated, to a rightful wage even the right to live a decent life.  After the slavery was abolished, discrimination continued in the form of black codes such as the Mississippi Black Code of 1867.

The Mississippi Black Code of 1867 was among the first laws to have been passed during the Reconstruction era.  It was a harsh law considering that it automatically renders a black person or a white person of a crime without being given the opportunity to be heard.  On one hand, the law appeared to be consistent with the aim of the government to extend equal treatment to everybody regardless of the color of his skin. It granted several rights to the freed men by giving them the rights to file suit and to testify in court.  These rights were initially denied to them before the Civil War. 

Under the Mississippi Black Code of 1867, all freed blacks were given the right to sue and be sued, to acquire personal property and to intermarry with each other.  However, the same code restricted and limited their rights by prohibiting them from renting or leasing on any land or tenement.  Freed blacks were likewise prevented from inter-marrying with a white person and white individuals were prohibited from inter-marrying with a white person.  Any person who shall violate the prohibition against interracial marriage shall be deemed convicted of a felony and shall be imprisoned for life and that the descendants from the freed men shall be deemed to have descended from a Negro up to the third generation regardless of the color of his skin. 

Despite the grant of certain rights, the Mississippi Black Code also imposed restrictions against the newly freed blacks which constituted denial of basic rights.  The code was a reflection of the prevailing sentiment in the Southern states.  Despite the abolition of slavery and these amendments to the constitution, the Southern states wanted the institutionalized discrimination to continue even during the period of Reconstruction and for several decades after.  The reason for the same is their fear that these former slaves will in the future ask for equality. 

After the end of the Civil and the abolition of slavery, many Negroes states opposed the idea of equality between the black and the whites.  They thought that with the abolition of slavery, African Americans may start asking for equal treatment and equal rights which the Southern states vigorously opposed.   The idea of slavery had been institutionalized in their minds that they thought white superiority over the African Americans should be maintained.  They believed that these two races should still be kept separate.  As a result various laws which were applicable only to the newly freed slaves were passed in an effort to perpetuate the unequal status between the white persons and the freed blacks. 
In an editorial in the Macon, Georgia, Daily Telegraphy reflected the sentiment of the white persons in the South.  It said: “There is such a radical difference in the mental and moral [nature] of the white and black race, that it would be impossible to secure order in a mixed community by the same law.”

It seemed that the rights granted to the African Americans have all been limited to paper and that there was really no chance for them to be granted equal status.  African Americans were often treated differently than the whites in almost every part of the United States.  Laws were passed by state legislatures that legalized and even mandated the segregation of races. 

The Reliable and Affordable Essay Writing Services

Several decades after the American Civil War, the United States continued with the promotion of the ideals of democracy.  It even sought to fight its enemies which are against democracy.  These wars, however, were not accepted by the American public.  Many opposed the need to interfere with the internal affairs of a foreign country when the country has already enough problems domestically.  Many individuals also questioned the motives behind these wars. 

In an effort to ensure victory against its enemies, President Woodrow Wilson passed a law that he thought ensure victory in the war.  He thought that in order for the United States to win its battles, it has to silence its critics and to restrict their actions.  Consequently, the Espionage Act of 1917 was passed.  Its sole purpose was “to punish the acts of interference with the foreign relations, neutrality, and the foreign commerce of the United States.”

The Espionage Act of 1917 criminalized the act of conveying information with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the armed forces of the United States or to promote the success of its enemies.  Moreover, under Section 3 of the same law, “Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall willfully make or convey false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States or to promote the success of its enemies and whoever when the United States is at war, shall willfully cause or attempt to cause  insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States, or shall willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States, to the injury of the service or of the United States, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than twenty years, or both.”

However, despite being a penal law, the Espionage Act of 1917 was couched in vague terms.  The language used in this law was so general in scope that any activity of a war dissenter can be interpreted as a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917.  For instance, Section 3 provides that any person who causes or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, in the military or naval forces may be prosecuted under this law.  This means that any individuals who shall so desire to speak against the government for their war efforts may be arrested and prosecuted under this law.  In view of the restrictive nature of this law, many war dissenters have been prosecuted and punished under this law. 

Surprisingly, the United States Supreme Court had in a number of cases recognized the constitutionality of the Espionage Act of 1917 and even upheld the conviction of many war dissenters under this law.   In the case of Schenk v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919), the Supreme Court said that the only test to be used whether the words used are in such circumstances as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that the lawmakers tried to prevent.  The Supreme Court said that “It is a question of proximity and degree. When a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right.”

One of these individuals who was imprisoned for speaking against the government’s war efforts was Eugene Deb.  Eugene Deb was a five-time presidential candidate who was known for his eloquent speeches.  He was also known for being the great voice of socialism in the United States.  In 1918, he delivered a speech at a mass meeting in Canton, Ohio.  While he knew that there were many government officials during the mass meeting and that there was a great likelihood that he may be arrested and imprisoned afterwards, he felt that it was his obligation to speak in behalf of the other individuals who were arrested after they had spoken against the government.  He opened his speech by expressing the sentiment of many individuals at the time.  He said that he had found out that “that it is extremely dangerous to exercise our constitutional right of freedom of speech in a country fighting to make democracy safe in the world.” 

In referring to the government and the upper class who were able to enrich themselves every time a war is waged, he also added that “They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people. And here let me emphasize the fact—and it cannot be repeated too often—that the working class who fight all the battles, the working class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace.”

As stated by the Supreme Court in the case of Schenk v. United States, there are certain statements which cannot be made in times of war.  In view of the circumstances of the war, it is essential that greater restrictions must be made so that victory may be ensured.  The courts recognize the right of the government to impose these restrictions since it is possible that there may no longer be any government to be protected in case the government loses in the war it is waging.  Moreover, it was feared that the act of Eugene Deb may incite the public to insubordination and disloyalty to the government. 

Nowadays, the United States government is no longer at war with Germany, Japan or the USSR.  At this point, no war is imminent and forthcoming.  It is sad that the fight for peace, equality, justice and freedom continues until today.  The only difference is that the enemy is not Japan, Germany or the USSR.  The enemy is the United States government which continues to restricting the individual rights and freedom of the people.  On the pretext that the government is at war with terrorism, it had also passed laws to give the government broader powers to deal with the threat of terrorism.  However, with the broad powers given to the government, United States government has started to terrorize the same citizens it is supposed to protect.

This is a free Essay on Mississippi Black Code of 1867.  We are the leading provider of affordable essay writing services in the United States and the United Kingdom.  If you need help we will prepare a well-written Essay on Mississippi Black Code of 1867 at very affordable costs starting at $7.50/page.


No comments:

Post a Comment