Back to top

Edward McPherson, Description of "An Act to Amend the Criminal Law of South Carolina," December 19, 1865

South Carolina, 1857, zoomable map
During the latter half of 1865, many reconstituted state legislatures in the old Confederacy passed new laws that defined the treatment of their inhabitants, black and white. Many of these laws took on the appearance of pre-war criminal laws, especially where African-Americans were concerned. Northern observers began to call these law the "Black Codes." Here, Edward McPherson describes in his "Handbook For Politics for 1868" sections of such a law passed in December 1865 reforming South Carolina laws. Discrimination against black citizens is clear, down to draconian restrictions on movement, commence, and the right to bear arms. The following month, General Daniel Sickles, Union commander in the region, issued an order decreeing that all such restrictions and other aspects of "the codes" be ignored in the law. (By John Osborne)