|Congressman Robert De Large|
Elected to the House from South Carolina
serving from 1871 - 1873.
(Editor - Here is a profile of a great American from the olden days . . . from the days before 90% of Black voters sold their soul to the Democratic Party in return for a few Socialist crumbs form the table of the Big Brother Welfare State.)
Robert Carlos De Large was born on March 15, 1842, in Aiken, South Carolina. Although some records indicate De Large was born a slave, he likely was the offspring of free mulatto parents. De Large’s father was a tailor, and his Haitian mother was a cloak maker.
The De Large family owned slaves and, as members of the free mulatto elite, were afforded opportunities denied their darker-skinned neighbors. Robert De Large was educated at a North Carolina primary school and attended Wood High School in Charleston, South Carolina.
He later married and had a daughter, Victoria. De Large was a tailor and a farmer before gaining lucrative employment with the Confederate Navy during the Civil War. Perhaps regretting the source of his financial windfall, De Large later donated most of his wartime earnings to the Republican Party. Nevertheless, by 1870 he had amassed a fortune that exceeded $6,500. He moved within Charleston’s highest circles and joined the Brown Fellowship Society, an exclusive organization for mullatos.
After the war, De Large worked for the Republican state government as an agent in the Freedmen’s Bureau. He became an organizer for the South Carolina Republican Party, serving on important committees at several state conventions. He chaired the credentials committee at the 1865 Colored People’s Convention at Charleston’s Zion Church. At the 1867 South Carolina Republican Convention, he chaired the platform committee, and he served on the committee on franchise and elections at the state’s 1868 constitutional convention.
Among African-American politicians of the era, De Large was comparatively conservative. He advocated mandatory literacy testing for voters but opposed compulsory education while supporting state-funded and integrated schools. He did favor some more radical measures, however, arguing that the government should penalize ex-Confederates by retaining their property and disfranchising them.
In 1868, De Large won his first elected office, serving in the state house of representatives where he chaired the ways and means committee. He also served on a board for the mentally ill and was a member of the state sinking fund commission. In 1870, seeking a black appointee, the legislature chose De Large as land commissioner. In his quest to help South Carolina’s poor, De Large oversaw the sale and transfer of almost 2,000 small tracts of land to be paid for over a maximum of eight years, but his tenure on the land commission was discredited by allegations of fraud.
In 1870, De Large set his sights on a Congressional district representing Charleston and the southeastern portion of the state. He secured the Republican nomination over incumbent scalawag Christopher Bowen, a former Confederate soldier and one of Governor Scott’s most formidable political enemies.
Christopher Bowen challenged De Large in the 1870 general election, running as an Independent Republican. De Large won the election by only a slender margin of fewer than 1,000 votes out of more than 32,000 cast.
Early in his term, De Large unsuccessfully offered an amendment to provide $20,000 to rebuild a Charleston orphanage. He also supported a bill providing amnesty to former Confederates, but felt loyal black and white southerners should be protected from intimidation and terror.
Arguing in favor of a bill to curb the activities of the Ku Klux Klan in April 1871, De Large referred to intolerable conditions throughout the South that required action from Congress.
“The naked facts stare us in the face, that this condition of affairs does exist, and that it is necessary for the strong arm of the law to interpose and protect the people in their lives, liberty, and property,” he noted. However, De Large was emphatic that his Charleston district had no reported cases of “outlawry” but admitted that “until within the last few months no one upon the face of God’s earth could have convinced me that a secret organization existed in my State for the purpose of committing murder, arson, and other outrages.”
De Large participated sparingly in House Floor debate during the second session, as he was occupied defending his seat. The House Committee on Elections began consideration of Christopher Bowen’s challenge to his election in December 1871, and De Large took a leave of absence in April 1872 to prepare his defense.
De Large had few political allies. He had developed a less-than-favorable reputation with his stubborn, elitist, and temperamental antics, including a fistfight in front of the state assembly in 1869.
The case was further complicated when De Large’s health failed in the summer of 1872. Black South Carolina Representative Joseph Rainey pleaded on the House Floor for a delay in the case, but the committee reported that the many abuses and irregularities during the election made determining a victor impossible, and on January 18, 1873, declared the seat vacant for the rest of the 42nd Congress, set to adjourn in March. The full House agreed with the committee’s findings.
The rigors of defending his seat in the 42nd Congress took a toll on De Large’s fragile health and left him few options other than retirement. Black politician Alonzo Ransier won his seat. De Large returned to the state capital in Columbia and later moved to Charleston after Governor Scott appointed him magistrate of that city.
He died of tuberculosis shortly thereafter on February 14, 1874, at the age of 31. Despite De Large’s difficult relationship with South Carolina Republicans, city magistrates statewide closed their offices on the day of his funeral to show their respect. (baic.house.gov)
|Congressman De Large served while US Grant was President.|
Grant made many advances in civil and human rights. In 1869 and 1871, he signed bills promoting black voting rights and prosecuting Klan leaders. He won passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave freedmen the vote, and the Civil Rights Act of 1871, which empowered the President "to arrest and break up disguised night marauders."
In response to the renewed violent outbreaks against African Americans, Grant was the first President to sign a congressional civil rights act: the Civil Rights Act of 1875. This legislation mandated equal treatment in public accommodations and jury selection.
Former President Grant acidly remarked that this anti-labor wing of the Republicans were the same people who had resisted using federal troops “to protect the lives of negroes. Now, however, there is no hesitation about exhausting the whole power of the government to suppress a strike on the slightest intimation that danger threatens.”