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Bond, Hugh Lennox (1828–1893)

BOND, HUGH LENNOX (1828–1893)

President ulysses s. grant on July 13, 1870, commissioned Hugh Lennox Bond judge of the newly created Fourth Circuit Court, a position he filled until his death. The Maryland judge was immediately called upon to hold court in an eleven-county section of South Carolina that had been plagued by the Ku Klux Klan's reign of terror. The judge fearlessly restored the rights of freedmen in South Carolina, but he did so in the belief that the states retained responsibility for preserving most civil rights. Congress, he insisted, could only impede the traditional power of the states over the franchise when there was evidence of direct state action resulting in discrimination based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Bond rejected the view that the civil war amendments incorporated rights deriving from natural law; the protection of such rights, he concluded, remained squarely within state discretion.

He refused to allow the concept of dual citizenship to erect an absolute bar to federal protection. In United States v. Petersburg Judges of Elections (1874), election officials were charged with preventing voting by freedmen without any overt act of racial discrimination. Bond acknowledged that under the concept of dual citizenship the states could take away certain rights, such as the franchise. He held, however, that so long as states continued to grant those rights, the federal government could protect freedmen by inferring discriminatory intent from acts depriving them of the rights that had been granted.

Bond insisted on the supremacy of the national government in its proper sphere. In 1876 he ordered the release of the Board of Canvassers of South Carolina who had been imprisoned by the state supreme court for attempting to report election returns favorable to rutherford b. hayes. Bond held that Article I, section 2, protected the Canvassers in their capacity as federal officials.

During reconstruction Bond courageously extended federal judicial protection to freedmen. Yet even this most vigorous champion in the circuit courts of freedmen's civil rights eschewed the Radical Republicans' constitutional interpretation of the Civil War amendments.

Kermit L. Hall


Hall, Kermit L. 1984 Political Power and Constitutional Legitimacy: The South Carolina Ku Klux Klan Trials, 1871–1872. Emory Law Journal 33:921–951.

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