The duty devolved upon that Legislature to fill three vacancies in the United States Senate: one, a fractional term of about one year,—the remainder of the six year term to which Jefferson Davis had been elected before the breaking out of the Rebellion,—another fractional term of about five years, and the third, the full term of six years, beginning with the expiration of the fractional term of one year. The colored members of the Legislature constituted a very small minority not only of the total membership of that body but also of the Republican members. Of the thirty-three members of which the Senate was composed four of them were colored men: H.R. Revels, of Adams; Charles Caldwell, of Hinds; Robert Gleed, of Lowndes, and T.W. Stringer, of Warren. Of the one hundred and seven members of which the House was composed about thirty of them were colored men. It will thus be seen that out of the one hundred forty members of which the two Houses were composed only about thirty-four of them were colored men. But the colored members insisted that one of the three United States Senators to be elected should be a colored man. The white Republicans were willing that the colored men be given the fractional term of one year, since it was understood that Governor Alcorn was to be elected to the full term of six years and that Governor Ames was to be elected to the fractional term of five years.
In this connection it may not be out of place to say that, ever since the organization of the Republican party in Mississippi, the white Republicans of that State, unlike some in a few of the other Southern States, have never attempted to draw the color line against their colored allies. In this they have proved themselves to be genuine and not sham Republicans,—that is to say, Republicans from principle and conviction and not for plunder and spoils. They have never failed to recognize the fact that the fundamental principle of the Republican party,—the one that gave the party its strongest claim upon the confidence and support of the public,—is its advocacy of equal civil and political rights. If that party should ever come to the conclusion that this principle should be abandoned, that moment it will merit, and I am sure it will receive, the condemnation and repudiation of the public.
It was not, therefore, a surprise to any one when the white Republican members of the Mississippi Legislature gave expression to their entire willingness to vote for a suitable colored man to represent the state of Mississippi in the highest and most dignified legislative tribunal in the world. The next step was to find the man. The name of the Rev. James Lynch was first suggested. That he was a suitable and fit man for the position could not be denied. But he had just been elected Secretary of State for a term of four years, and his election to the Senate would have created a vacancy in the former office which would have necessitated the holding of another State election and another election was what all wanted to avoid. For that reason his name was not seriously considered for the Senatorship.