The Poland Committee

If there can be anything comical in a tragedy it is furnished just here in the fact that, in the twinkling of an eye, the adherents and voters of the two governors had changed places, and each was now fighting for the man whom he had opposed so vehemently. And in all these swift changes the supreme court had shown the greatest agility. By some remarkable legerdemain, Brooks, who was intrenching himself, had had his case again placed before the supreme court, and it promptly reversed itself and decided that the circuit court had jurisdiction. The wires to Washington were kept hot with messages to President Grant and Congress. The whole State was in dire commotion with “mustering squadrons and clattering cars.” The frequent popping of picket guns was in the land; a steamboat, laden with arms for Baxter, was attacked and several killed and many wounded. Business was again utterly prostrated and horrors brooded over the unfortunate State; and probably the most appalling feature of it all was that in the division in the ranks of the people the blacks, led by whites, were mostly on one side, while the whites were arrayed on the other. Congress sent the historical Poland Committee to investigate Arkansas affairs. President Grant submitted all legal questions to his attorney-general.

The President, at the end of thirty days after the forcible possession of the office, sustained Baxter – exit Brooks. The end of the war, the climax of reconstruction in Arkansas, had come. Peace entered as swiftly as had war a few days before. The sincerity and intensity of the people’s happiness in this final ending are found in the fact that when law and order were restored no one was impeached, no one was imprisoned for treason.

The report of the Poland Committee, 1874, the written opinion of Attorney-General Williams, the decision of the Arkansas supreme court by Judge Samuel W. Williams, found in Vol. XXIX of Arkansas Reports, page 173, and the retiring message of Governor Baxter, are the principal records of the literature and history of the reign of the dual governors. The students of law and history in coming time will turn inquiring eyes with curious interest upon these official pages. The memory of “the thirty days” in Arkansas will live forever, propagating its lessons and bearing its warnings; the wise moderation and the spirit of forbearance of the people, in even their exulting hour of triumph, will be as beacon lights shining out upon the troubled waters, transmitting for all time the transcendent fact that in the hour of supreme trial the best intelligence of the people is wiser than their rulers, better law-givers than their statesmen, and incomparably superior to their courts.

The moment that President Grant officially spoke, the reconstruction constitution of 1868 was doomed. True, the people had moved almost in mass and without leadership in 1873, and had repealed Article VIII of the constitution, disfranchising a large part of the intelligent tax payers of the State.

The constitutional convention of 1874, with the above facts fresh before it, met and promulgated the present State constitution. G. D. Royston was president, and T. W. Newton, secretary. The session lasted from July 14 to October 31, 1874. From the hour of its adoption the clouds rolled away, and at once commenced the present unexampled prosperity of the State.

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