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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 899

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This is the grave of Alfred Moore Waddell.

Born in 1834 in Hillsborough, North Carolina, Waddell grew up in the North Carolina elite. His father was a big-time lawyer and his great-grandfather was the early Supreme Court justice Alfred Moore. He went to elite schools and then onto the University of North Carolina, graduating in 1853. He passed the bar and started practicing in the coastal city of Wilmington in 1855. He was a southern Whig of the highest order, which meant he didn’t have much standing in the Civil War era. He bought the biggest paper in Wilmington to push his views of nationalism, development, and opposition to secession. He was a big John Bell guy in 1860, saying that, look, if only the North gives the South everything it wants, maybe it won’t secede right not. Lincoln wisely rejected this ridiculousness.

North Carolina wasn’t the most secesh state in the South, but it certainly decided to commit treason in defense in slavery. Forced to choose, Waddell decided to stick with his southern roots and commit treason himself. He became an officer and eventually rose to be a lieutenant colonel, but it seems he was more support staff and didn’t see much battle.

If Waddell was a moderate before the war, that changed drastically after the war. The idea of Black rights was so repulsive to this deeply racist individual that not only did he switch parties and become a Democrats, but became a leader of the conservative faction, which was extra white supremacist. He was elected to Congress in 1870 and served on the Ku Klux Klan Committee, but I think was basically pro-Klan and so dissented from the committee Grant wanted to crack down on this terrorism. Waddell was certainly not anti-racial terrorism. He lost his congressional seat in 1878 but remained an important North Carolina party insider, someone who leading presidential candidates wanted in their corner to get the state’s vote. He returned to his newspapering too. He practiced the law a little, but didn’t care for it. Basically, he was a rich racist looking to do rich racist things.

That opportunity came in 1898. Unlike most of the South, a real alliance between Black and poor white voters had developed in eastern North Carolina. The Fusion ticket they created won political power in Waddell’s home city. This was not acceptable to him or to other hard-core North Carolina racist leaders. Democrats committed themselves that year to destroying that coalition by mustering up ever more insane rhetoric about white supremacy. Waddell was all in for this and became one of the leaders, both in talking and writing, about the need for violence against “Negro domination” and the white race traitors in alliance with it. When Alexander Manly, the brave Black newspaper editor in Wilmington, pushed back on the claims of Black rape by saying that, yes, Black men and white women had a lot of sex but that’s because the white women wanted it, he sent people like Waddell over the top. Waddell was very into the idea of the sexualized Black man raping white women, something he was assisted in by the Raleigh editor and future FDR confidant Josephus Daniels. Waddell, in a speech in Wilmington, said the only issue that mattered in North Carolina politics was the superiority of the white man and the need to punish the race traitors. He closed by saying, “We will never surrender to a ragged raffle of Negroes, even if we have to choke the Cape Fear River with carcasses.”

Well, people took Waddell seriously. Waddell was tasked with a lot of the planning for the violent coup to come. Democrats did win the 1898 election in Wilmington, but narrowly. The Fusion Party was still strong. So Waddell issued something called the The White Declaration of Independence shortly after the election. This is exactly what you’d expect–hatred of Black men voting, the claim that the U.S. was for white man, the demand that whites never again submit to Black rule, all the usual racisms. You know what? Let’s just reprint the damn thing:

“Believing that the Constitution of the United States contemplated a government to be carried on by an enlightened people; believing that its framers did not anticipate the enfranchisement of an ignorant population of African origin, and believing that those men of the state of North Carolina, who joined in framing the union did not contemplate for their descendants subjection to an inferior race.

We the undersigned citizens of the city of Wilmington and county of New Hanover, do hereby declare that we will no longer be ruled and will never again be ruled, by men of African origin.

This condition we have in part endured because we felt that the consequences of the war of secession were such as to deprive us of the fair consideration of many of our countrymen.

While we recognize the authority of the United States and will yield to it if exerted, we would not for a moment believe that it is the purpose of 60 million of our own race to subject us permanently to a fate to which no Anglo-Saxon has ever been forced to submit.

We, therefore, believing that we represent unequivocally the sentiments of the white people of this county and city, hereby for ourselves, and as representatives of them, proclaim:

That the time has come for the intelligent citizens of this community owning 95 percent of the property and paying taxes in proportion, to end the rule by Negroes.

That we will not tolerate the action of unscrupulous white men in affiliating with the Negroes so that by means of their vote they can dominate the intelligent and thrifty element in the community, thus causing business to stagnate and progress to be out of the question.

That the Negro has demonstrated by antagonizing our interests in every way, and especially by his ballot, that he is incapable of realizing that his interests are and should be identical with those of the community.

That the progressive element in any community is the white population and that the giving of nearly all the employment to Negro laborers has been against the best interests of this county and city, and is sufficient reason why the city of Wilmington, with its natural advantages, has not become a city of at least 50,000 inhabitants.

That we propose in the future to give to white men a large part of the employment heretofore given to Negroes because we realize that white families cannot thrive here unless there are more opportunities for employment of the different members of their families.

That we white men expect to live in this community peaceably; to have and provide absolute protection for our families, who shall be safe from insult or injury from all persons, whomsoever. We are prepared to treat the Negroes with justice in all matters which do not involve sacrifice of the intelligent and progressive portion of the community. But are equally prepared now and immediately to enforce what we know to be our rights.

That we have been, in our desire for harmony and peace, blinded both to our interests and our rights. A climax was reached when the Negro paper of this city published an article so vile and slanderous that it would in most communities have resulted in a lynching, and yet there is no punishment, provided by the courts, adequate for the offense. We, therefore, owe it to the people of this community and city, as protection against such license in the future, that “The Record” cease to be published and that its editor be banished from this community.

We demand that he leave the city forever within 24 hours after the issuance of this Proclamation. Second, that the printing press from which “The Record” has been issued be shipped from the city without delay; that we be notified within 12 hours of the acceptance or rejection of this demand.

If the demand is agreed to, we counsel forbearance on the part of the white men. If the demand is refused or no answer is given within the time mentioned, then the editor, Manly, will be expelled by force.”

He seems nice.

The day after the White Declaration of Independence was the coup. Waddell was its leader. Somewhere between 60 and 300 people were killed that day by Waddell’s forces of loosely organized whites. It was just a slaughter. The number is likely a lot closer to 300 than 60. After all, it was in the interest of no white to count the number of Black dead, as if they cared. Interestingly, through all this, Waddell was financially downwardly mobile, mostly because he was lazy and bitter, not wanting to work. His wife was supporting him through teaching music to Wilmington elites. I mention this as something of an aside, but also to give a sense of the character of the elite white supremacist in the post-Reconstruction South.

This was an outright coup. It was the moment where white supremacy truly defeated any organized Black resistance in America. The repeal of Reconstruction is not something that happened in 1877. It took a long time of whites not caring about the fate of Black people. The Wilmington coup is 21 years after the end of Reconstruction. Plessy was 21 years after the end of Reconstruction. There was lots of time for whites, at least in the North, to change their beliefs and decide to defend Black rights. They did not. Not at all.

Waddell immediately sought to salvage his reputation with a long article in Collier’s that was a “Both Sides Do It” masterpiece, blaming the violence on elements of both sides and just completing lying about his own culpability. What an asshole.

In the aftermath, Wadell became mayor of Wilmington. He stayed in that position until 1905. He died in 1912, at the age of 77 years old. It’s too bad he was ever born.

Alfred Moore Waddell is buried in Oakdale Cemetery, Wilmington, North Carolina.

I obviously was waiting to write up this scumbag. If you would like this series to visit other white supremacist scumbags, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. John Rankin is in West Point, Mississippi, and Tom Watson is in Thomson, Georgia. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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