In 1867, the governments of the former Confederate states were restructured to reflect the new political order of the post-Civil War South. Federal troops oversaw the implementation of the Reconstruction Acts of 1867, which provided newly freed slaves with their first opportunity to register to vote. The 1867 elections created a “black and tan” convention charged with creating a new constitution for South Carolina. The convention’s constitution of 1868 provided for new elections, creating a state legislature that ratified the constitution and successfully requested readmission to the Union. South Carolina rejoined the Union on June 25, 1868, and became the only state legislature with a black majority in its lower house.
This composite portrait of members of the Republican caucus in the South Carolina legislature was created by opponents of Reconstruction. The term “radical” was used to deride Reconstructionist lawmakers by former Confederates opposed to their agenda of legal reform and racial equality. The collage of formal portraits surrounds two central figures, both white men. Franklin Moses, Jr. (1838–1906) was a former ardent Confederate who—as legend had it—raised the Confederate flag over Fort Sumter at the beginning of the war. After the Union victory, Moses became, in the parlance of the South, a “scalawag,” a turncoat who changed sides in the interest of preserving his political fortunes in the new government. His portrait is titled “Judas Moses who raised the Confederate Flag on Fort Sumter.” Next to him is Lemuel Boozer (1809–1870), a delegate to the constitutional convention. His portrait is titled “President, Lieut. Gov. Boozer 40 Acres and a Mule,” a reference to the widespread rumor that Reconstructionist legislators would mandate comprehensive land redistribution which would award “40 acres and a mule” to each freed slave.
The image almost certainly dates from the period 1868–72, after the implementation of the new state constitution but before Moses’s election as governor of South Carolina.