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Edmund Abell to the Grand Jury of the Criminal Court, New Orleans, Louisiana, July 23, 1866.

Saint Charles Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, July 1866, artist's impression, detail.

Radical Republicans in Louisiana, angered with the conservative actions of the Democratically-controlled legislature, were determined to recall the Constitutional Convention of 1864 to take remedial action.  A group of former members, citing the rule that the gathering could be recalled, elected State Supreme Court Judge R.K. Howell as President pro teme, and he announced on July 8, 1866 that the Convention of 1864 would be reconvened in New Orleans on July 30, 1866.  This angered the majority of the white electorate and the Grand Jury convened at the Louisiana Criminal Court in New Orleans requested guidance from their judge as to whether the scheduled gathering would be legal.  Judge Edmund Abell, himself a former member of the Convention of 1864, gave a lengthy instruction to the Grand Jury in response.  He laid out the methods by which the existing constitution the Convention of 1864 had produced could be amended and these were concentrated in the legislature, and the ultimate confirmation of the electorate. He reminded the jury of its responsibilities to bar illegal assemblies and concluded with the pronouncement that any attempt to change the constitution in ways other than laid down by the law would be illegal. The planned convention did go ahead seven days later and resulted in the historic and influential New Orleans riot which killed almost fifty, mostly black, people in the streets of the city. (By John Osborne)


How to Cite This Page: "Edmund Abell to the Grand Jury of the Criminal Court, New Orleans, Louisiana, July 23, 1866.," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,