Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Voters Approve Dissolution of Tampa?

In the spirit of election day, we thought it fitting to recall John T. Lesley's post Civil War-effort to dissolve the City of Tampa, which voters overwhelmingly approved. Find out more about Tampa during the Civil War when you visit Blue and Grey in Tampa Bay, on exhibit at the History Center through May.

Tampa Loses Its Charter

John T. Lesley, TBHC Collection
 Following the end of the Civil War, Tampa’s leaders attempted to return their shattered city to some level of normalcy.  Not surprisingly, Federal authorities had their own plans for bringing the South back into the United States.  The era that would come to be called Reconstruction was highlighted by the national government’s attempts to bring what they considered equality to the Southern states.  Those attempts were met with resistance and even open hostility throughout the South.

Though involved with Tampa’s resurgence in the 1880s, John T. Lesley is perhaps best-known for his political actions during the initial post-war period.  In his return to civilian life following his time in the Confederate army and Florida’s Cow Cavalry, he played an instrumental role in how Tampa received the concept of Reconstruction.

Florida’s Reconstruction legislature passed a law in 1869 calling for the reorganization of municipal governments.  Lesley and other former Confederates felt that this would lead to Republican and African American control of city hall.  In an effort to eliminate that threat, Lesley ran for mayor on the platform that if was elected he would abolish Tampa’s city government.  He won in a landslide and, true to his word, he saw that the city’s charter lapsed, therefore ensuring that it would not fall into the hands of Carpetbaggers (Northerners) and Scalawags (Southerners aiding the Carpetbaggers).  Tampa would not become a city again until July 1887. -- RKP

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