He was now completely without an occupation, and began to look around for employment. He decided to make a trial of politics. A campaign came on and he vigorously espoused the cause of the Republicans. A congressional and presidential campaign was being conducted at the same time, and Belton did yeoman service.
Owing to frauds in the elections the Democrats carried the district in which Belton labored, but the vote was closer than was ever known before. The Republicans, however, carried the nation and the President appointed a white republican as post-master of Richmond. In recognition of his great service to his party, Belton was appointed stamping clerk in the Post Office at a salary of sixty dollars per month.
As a rule, the most prominent and lucrative places went to those who were most influential with the voters. Measured by this standard and by the standard of real ability, Belton was entitled to the best place in the district in the gift of the government; but the color of his skin was against him, and he had to content himself with a clerkship.
At the expiration of one year, Belton proudly led the charming Antoinette Nermal to the marriage altar, where they became man and wife. Their marriage was the most notable social event that had ever been known among the colored people of Richmond. All of the colored people and many of the white people of prominence were at the wedding reception, and costly presents poured in upon them. This brilliant couple were predicted to have a glorious future before them. So all hearts hoped and felt.
About two years from Belton’s appointment as stamping clerk and one year from the date of his marriage, a congressional convention was held for the purpose of nominating a candidate for Congress. Belton’s chief, the postmaster, desired a personal friend to have the honor. This personal friend was known to be prejudiced against colored people and Belton could not, therefore, see his way clear to support him for the nomination. He supported another candidate and won for him the nomination; but the postmaster dismissed him from his position as clerk. Crushed in spirit, Belton came home to tell his wife of their misfortune.
Although he was entitled to the postmastership, according to the ethics of the existing political condition, he had been given a commonplace clerkship. And now, because he would not play the puppet, he was summarily dismissed from that humble position. His wife cheered him up and bade him to not be despondent, telling him that a man of his talents would beyond all question be sure to succeed in life.
Belton began to cast around for another occupation, but, in whatever direction he looked, he saw no hope. He possessed a first class college education, but that was all. He knew no trade nor was he equipped to enter any of the professions. It is true that there were positions around by the thousands which he could fill, but his color debarred him. He would have made an excellent drummer, salesman, clerk, cashier, government official (county, city, state, or national) telegraph operator, conductor, or any thing of such a nature. But the color of his skin shut the doors so tight that he could not even peep in.