Matt W. Ransom papers, 1845-1914 (bulk 1868-1904).

Creator: Ransom, Matt W. (Matt Whitaker), 1826-1904.
Collection number: 2615
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Abstract: Lawyer, planter, state official, Confederate general, Redeemer, Democratic United States senator from North Carolina, 1872-1895, and minister to Mexico, 1895-1897. Correspondence, chiefly 1868-1904, relating to the political, economic, and racial aspects of Reconstruction in North Carolina, particularly the machinations of George William Swepson; to Ransom’s plantations in northeastern North Carolina, particularly in regard to cotton marketing and labor; to national and state party politics, 1868- 1904; and to his diplomatic service in Mexico. Much of the collection is Ransom’s papers as a senator, including correspondence with politicians and constituents covering most of the major issues of the time: race relations; federal actions affecting southern agriculture and industry, including the tariff, the silver question, and agrarian unrest; women’s suffrage; and many others. Also included are papers relating to a variety of family and business concerns. Material on Ransom’s Civil War career and the first three years of Reconstruction is relatively slight and there is nothing about his prewar political career.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: Papers relate to the political, economic, and racial aspects of the Reconstruction; management of plantation and former slaves (1880- 1885); the conduct of African-American plantation workers (1890- 1892, 1897); the political tide among African Americans in North Carolina (1894-5); a letter written by William Cawthorne, an African American lecturing to Good Templar lodges in Philadelphia, concerning the racial prejudices of the North versus the South (1874); the resignation of a student at West Point, in part induced by the necessity of close association with an African-American cadet (1875);

There is also correspondence related to the desire of John H. Collins, an African-American official, to become minister to Haiti (1877).

There is 10 December 1875 letter from former slave and former Union Army Chaplain Garland H. White of Virginia, requesting that Pierce Lafayette, an African American Democratic preacher, be appointed police officer in Washington, D.C. (Folders 13a – 13b). There is also a a 3 November 1893 letter from Garland H. White describing his work with the Democratic Party and requesting to confer with Matt W. Ransom on organizing local African American Democrats following the next election.

There is also a letter of 16 May 1887 from A. M. Noble of Johnston County, N.C., expressing outrage that the Democratic administration had not removed an African American mail agent serving on the Greensboro to Goldsboro route. More complaints can be found in the correspondence in 1893.

Also included in the correspondence is a  4 June 1891 letter from F. S. Faison of Garysburg, N.C., notifying Ransom that “the opposition” would be holding a meeting, at which several African Americans were going to speak, and asking if Ransom would join them in “capturing the meeting.”