Constitutional Crisis and Black 

Reconstruction in the South


Jourdan Anderson, Letter to His Former Master, August 7, 1865

Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P. H. Anderson,

Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter and was glad to find you had not forgotten Jourdan, and that you

wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else

can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before

this for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to

Col. Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you

shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are

still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again and see Miss Mary and

Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we

will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was

working in the Nashville hospital, but one of the neighbors told me Henry intended to shoot me if

he ever got a chance.

     I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing

tolerably well here; I get $25 a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for

Mandy (the folks here call her Mrs. Anderson), and the children, Milly, Jane and Grundy, go to

school and are learning well; the teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to

Sunday-School, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated; sometimes we

overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel

hurt when they hear such remarks, but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to

Col. Anderson. Many darkies would have been proud, as I used to was, to call you master. Now,

if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it

would be to my advantage to move back again.

     As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score,

as I got my free-papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department at

Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you are sincerely

disposed to treat us justly and kindly - and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you

to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores,

and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years

and Mandy twenty years. At $25 a month for me, and $2 a week for Mandy, our earnings would

amount to $11,680. Add to this the interest for the time our wages has been kept back and deduct

what you paid for our clothing and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and

the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams Express,

in care of V. Winters, esq, Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past we can

have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to

the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you

for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night, but in

Tennessee there was never any pay day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows.

Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane,

who are now grown up and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda

and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve and die if it comes to that than have my girls

brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please

state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood, the great

desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

     P.S.—Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when

you were shooting at me.


From your old servant,

Jourdan Anderson







Fourteenth Amendment, U.S. Constitution, Ratified July 1868

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.



Harper's Weekly, April 14, 1866








Harper's Weekly, March 21, 1868


Fifteenth Amendment, U.S. Constitution, Ratified February 3, 1870

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.


Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.