James M. Hinds
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Arkansas's 2nd district
June 22, 1868 – October 22, 1868
|Preceded by||No representation because of the American Civil War (Albert Rust prior to March 3, 1861)|
|Succeeded by||James T. Elliott|
|Representative for Pulaski County at Arkansas Constitutional Convention of 1868|
January 7, 1868 – March 13, 1868
|District Attorney for Nicollet County, Minnesota|
November 1856 – 1860
|Preceded by||Charles Flandrau|
|Succeeded by||E. P. Davis|
|District Attorney for Minnesota Territory|
|Born||December 5, 1833|
Hebron, New York, U.S.
|Died||October 22, 1868 (aged 34)|
Near Indian Bay in
Monroe County, Arkansas
|Resting place||Evergreen Cemetery in Salem, New York|
|Alma mater||Cincinnati Law School|
Real estate owner
James M. Hinds (December 5, 1833 – October 22, 1868) represented Arkansas in the United States House of Representatives for the 2nd congressional district from June 24, 1868 until his death in office four months later. He was assassinated by a Klansman for advocating civil rights for former slaves.
Born and raised in a small town in upstate New York, Hinds went west at the age of nineteen and graduated in 1856 from the Cincinnati Law School in Cincinnati, Ohio. He settled in Minnesota, where he opened a private law practice and was elected district attorney of his county. Looking for a fresh start, Hinds moved to the capital city of Little Rock, Arkansas in 1865. In 1867, he was elected to represent Pulaski County as a Republican at the Arkansas Constitutional Convention tasked with rewriting the constitution to allow Arkansas' readmission to the Union following its secession and the American Civil War. At that convention, Hinds successfully advocated for constitutional provisions establishing the right to vote for adult freedmen and public education for both black and white children.
Campaigning for Republican candidate Ulysses S. Grant in the 1868 presidential election, Hinds was threatened and targeted by the Ku Klux Klan. In October 1868, while travelling to a political meeting with Joseph Brooks in Monroe County, Hinds was shot to death by a Klansman.
Hinds was born in East Hebron, New York, to Charles and Jane Hinds. The youngest of six children, his brother Henry also became an attorney. Hinds' other siblings were brothers William, John, and Calvin, and his sister, Jane. He attended high school at Washington Academy in Salem, New York, and college at the Albany Normal School (now University at Albany, SUNY). Hinds read law at a school in St. Louis, Missouri, before graduating from Cincinnati Law School four years after his brother Henry did so.
In 1856, at the age of twenty-three, Hinds moved to the Minnesota Territory and settled in St. Peter, the county seat of Nicollet County 40 miles (64 km) west of his brother Henry in Shakopee, Minnesota. During this time, there was discussion of moving the Minnesota territorial capital from St. Paul to St. Peter. Hinds purchased several lots and opened a law practice. A bill was sent to the Governor from the Legislature to make St. Peter the capital of the future state, but an adversary hid the bill until the end of the legislative session. As a result, the capital became St. Paul. Shortly after opening a law practice, James Hinds was elected district attorney for the county.
Hinds was building a career and starting a family in St. Peter during a turbulent time in the region because of conflict between settlers and homesteaders and the Dakota Sioux, culminating in the Dakota War of 1862. He enlisted as a private in the First Minnesota Cavalry's Mounted Rangers, Company E during the conflict. By 1865, Hinds realized that St. Peter would not grow to political prominence and would remain a small farming village. Seeking a fresh start and more opportunity, in mid-1865 he relocated with his wife and two young daughters to Little Rock, Arkansas, in the throes of Reconstruction.
Upon reaching Arkansas, one of the eleven states of the former Confederacy, Hinds found a state heavily degraded by the Civil War. By 1865, fighting between Confederate and Union forces had ravaged the state: population declined, millions of dollars of property was lost to burning or stealing, and the antebellum labor system (slavery) was gone. Plantations, the source of most state tax revenues, lacked the slave labor which had sustained them, throwing once-powerful planters (plantation owners) into financial uncertainty. As Arkansas struggled with the new status quo, it also struggled to establish a new labor system.
As with many Northerners, Hinds did not understand the grip of white supremacy, and resentment toward freedmen and Northerners, in the South at the time. He believed that in the wake of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War, freedmen in the South should enjoy the same liberties as in the North, and underestimated continuing fierce resistance from Democrat whites. These sentiments were later eulogized by Logan H. Roots, a contemporary who represented Arkansas in Congress. Measures to block freedmen from voting and racial violence demonstrated that many in the state did not accept civil rights for freedmen. Hinds found himself referred to as a carpetbagger, a pejorative term used by conservative Southerners to disparage Northerners who moved south during Reconstruction.
In mid-1865 in Little Rock, Hinds formed a law practice with Elisha Baxter, one of the state's leading Unionists. Baxter, who fought with the Union Army during the war, would be selected to serve on to the Arkansas Supreme Court by the newly established government and was later governor of Arkansas. In October 1867, Hinds was elected to be a delegate at Arkansas's 1868 Constitution Convention. At that Convention he was made chairman of the Committee on the Elective Franchise. The new constitution that emerged that February, ratified in March, provided voting rights for black males over the age of twenty-one and for the creation of public schools for both black and white children. Elected to Congress early that year, Hinds went to Washington D.C. in April, 1868, where he arranged for Arkansas to be the first state to rejoin the union under the 1867 Reconstruction Acts. In May 1868, Hinds was a delegate at the 1868 Republican National Convention held in Chicago. Returning to Arkansas in August, he campaigned vigorously for Republican presidential candidate Grant, and for civil rights for former slaves.
Hinds was the first U.S. Congressman assassinated in office. He was murdered on the eve of the 1868 presidential election, which was a contest over civil rights and suffrage for freedmen. Republicans, led by former Union Army General Ulysses S. Grant, favored those measures, while the Democratic Party opposed them. On October 22, 1868, en route to a campaign event for Grant near the village of Indian Bay in Monroe County, Hinds and fellow Republican politician Joseph Brooks were shot. Brooks managed to stay on his horse and ride to the event to bring back assistance. Hinds was knocked off his horse by the shotgun blast to his back, and lay on the road until help arrived. Before he died, Hinds sent a message to his wife and identified his killer. He died about two hours after the attack. A Coroner's Inquest identified the shooter as George Clark, secretary of the Monroe County Democratic Party and a local Klansman. Clark was never arrested or prosecuted.
A week after the attack, The Morning Republican newspaper published the story, recounting that “Men passing and returning soon found Mr. Hinds lying in the road still alive and rational, but conscious of the fact that his wound was of such serious nature that but a few moments more remained of his earthly career.”
Governor Powell Clayton feared that the murder of Hinds, coming amid rising violence against Republicans and freed people, was a precursor to a general attack on state officers to seize control of the government and the polls prior to the election, but the insurrection did not take place. Hinds is interred at Evergreen Cemetery in Salem, New York. The Congressional Cemetery in Washington D.C. contains a memorial stone in his honor.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arkansas's 2nd congressional district
June 22, 1868 – October 22, 1868
James T. Elliott