The Origin and Development of the Ku Klux Clan, Anti-Ku Klux law
The following data is extracted from Trinity College Historical Society .
Matters continued to grow from bad to worse, until it became necessary for the government to interfere, and we have the famous "Anti-Ku Klux law," passed in Tennessee in 1868. This law was severe in the extreme. The following are some of its principle features:
(1.) "It was ex post facto.
(2.) "It presented no way in which a man could relieve himself of liability to it, except by turning informer, and, as an inducement to do this, a large bribe was offered.
(3.) It encouraged strife by making every inhabitant of the State an officer extraordinary, with power "to arrest without process," when he had ground to suspect.
(4.) It emphasized loyalty to the government, which meant simply to become a subservient tool; such men as Gov. Brownlow, Gov. Holden and their tribe.
(5.) While the law professed to be aimed at suppression of all lawlessness, it was not so construed and enforced by the party in power. No attempt was made to suppress the "Union" or "Loyal League," which met often and was as lawless as the Ku Klux.
Many of the States passed laws making it easy to secure military rule in any section, which in many cases was done, and a perfect reign of terror followed. The Ku Klux felt themselves outlawed without an opportunity of defending themselves openly, and hence some of their rashest actions. But be it said to their honor, they bore it more patiently than would have been expected under the circumstances.
Early in the year 1869 it was decided best for the Clan to disband, and a proclamation was issued from the "Grand Wizard of the Empire to his subjects." This proclamation stated the legislation against the Ku Klux, and declared that the order had now accomplished the greater part of the objects for which it had existed. ďAt a time when the civil law afforded inadequate protection to life and property; when robbery and lawlessness of every description were unrebuked; when all the better elements of society were in constant dread for the safety of their property, persons and families, the Clan had afforded protection and security to many firesides, and in many ways contributed to the public welfare. But greatly to the regret of all good citizens, some members of the Clan had violated positive orders; others, under the name and disguises of the organization, had assumed to do acts of violence, for which the Clan was held responsible."
Members were directed to destroy all the paraphernalia of the order, and were counseled to uphold the law, and aid all good citizens, in the future, as in the past.
The proclamation of disbandment was issued to all the Realms, Dominions, and Dens of the Invisible Empire. But, as the newspapers were forbidden to publish anything from the Ku Klux, and the Dens were scattered over many states, this proclamation was long in reaching some of them. In this state there were many deeds attributed to the Ku Klux long after the proclamation of disbandment, but the order had no organized existence after March 1869.
"Thus lived, so died, this strange order. Its birth was an accident; its growth a comedy; its death a tragedy. It owed its existence wholly to the anomalous condition of social and civil affairs in the South during the years immediately succeeding the unfortunate contest in which so many brave men in blue and gray fell, martyrs to their convictions." SANDERS DENT.
NOTE.-In the preparation of this paper I have referred freely to "The Ku Klux Klan" by J. C. Lester and D. L. Wilson. S. S. D.
Source: Trinity College Historical Society