ENTRY

Archer Scott (ca. May 1836–1909)

SUMMARY

Archer Scott represented Amelia and Nottoway Counties in the House of Delegates from 1879 to 1884. Born into slavery of mixed-race ancestry, he was identified in the U.S. Census records as a farmer. Scott won election in 1875 to a two-year term representing Nottoway County in the House of Delegates. He proposed an unsuccessful measure to require sheriffs to summon equal numbers of white and Black registered voters when assembling panels of potential jurors. He was not a candidate for reelection in 1877, but he won election again in 1879 after Amelia County was added to the district. Allied with the emerging Readjuster Party, Scott won reelection in 1881 as a coalition of Republicans and Readjusters won majorities in the General Assembly. Among the many reform measures were a constitutional amendment to abolish the poll tax and laws to establish a college for African Americans (what became Virginia State University), and to abolish the whipping post. Scott won another term in 1883, but the Readjusters lost their majority and influence. He was elected an overseer of the poor in Nottoway in 1891 and deeded a half acre of property to the New Yielding Zion Church in 1893. Archer Scott died probably before July 31, 1909, when his name was not included on the personal property tax records for that year.

Early Life and Political Career

Scott was born into slavery, probably in Nottoway County, where he resided with his wife, Angelina or Angeline (maiden name unrecorded), after the American Civil War (1861-1865). The names of his parents are not known, nor is the date of his marriage. The 1880 U.S. Census reported that two girls ages eleven and thirteen with the surname Webster, identified as Scott’s granddaughters, resided in his household that year, but they may have been his wife’s daughters and therefore his stepdaughters. Of mixed-race ancestry, Scott was described late in the 1860s as about five feet five inches tall with a black mustache and a bald spot on his crown and “of intelligence and good address.” When or how he received an education is not known, but he learned to read and write. Census enumerators regularly identified him as a farm laborer or farmer. In October 1875, he and his wife borrowed $60 to purchase a three-acre lot of land in the town of Burkeville.

Nottoway County had one of the highest percentages of African Americans in the state, more than 70 percent, and although its political history in the 1870s is poorly documented, it is known that African American Republicans were active in its politics beginning shortly after the Civil War. Scott was one of many African American men who voted for the first time on October 22, 1867, when the military oversaw the election of delegates to a convention called to write a new constitution as required by Congress as part of the Reconstruction Acts. In 1875 Scott defeated an opponent 239 to 193 to win election as a Republican to a two-year term to represent the county in the House of Delegates. Identified as a Radical Republican, he held the lowest-ranking seat on the Committee on Claims. He proposed several measures, none of which passed, to abolish the homestead exemption provided for in the Constitution of 1869, to require sheriffs to summon equal numbers of white and Black registered voters when assembling panels of potential jurors, to license gambling houses and bawdy houses, to reduce fraud at elections, and to allow a referendum in Nottoway County on enforcement of the state’s optional fence law. On February 17, 1876, Scott voted against a provision in a proposed amendment to the state constitution, which was ratified that fall, to require payment of a poll tax as a prerequisite for voting and to disfranchise men convicted of petty offenses. Scott unsuccessfully introduced another version of his fence law bill in the 1877 session of his first term.

In August 1876, the congressional district’s Republican Party was divided between supporters of a white candidate for the House of Representatives and Mark R. DeMortie, an African American entrepreneur who then resided in Nottoway County. Scott nominated DeMortie at the district convention, but he lost in the general election. Scott was not a candidate for reelection in 1877, but he won election to the House of Delegates again in 1879 after Amelia County was added to the Nottoway County district. It also had a more than 70 percent African American majority. He received 1,314 votes and defeated a prominent white Readjuster, Lewis E. Harvie, who received 740 votes and another candidate who received 171. The new, biracial Readjuster Party proposed to refinance the public debt left over from before the Civil War to reduce the rate of interest and the amount of principal to be paid in order to be able to increase appropriations for the new public school system. Scott held the lowest-ranking seats on the Committees on Propositions and Grievances and on Enrolled Bills. Early in the session, he voted for William Mahone, a former Confederate general and leader of the Readjusters, for the United States Senate. On March 1, 1880, Scott voted for the Riddleberger Bill, which reduced the amount of principal owed and reduced the ability of bondholders to pay state taxes with the bonds’ coupons instead of money that the state could spend, but it was vetoed by the governor. By 1880 Scott was publicly identified as a Readjuster, but he did not attend the March 1881 convention of African American Republicans who voted to make a formal alliance with the Readjuster Party.

In 1881 Scott won reelection with an overwhelming majority of 1,744 to 584 when a coalition of Republicans and Readjusters won majorities in the General Assembly and all the statewide offices. The Speaker of the House appointed Scott to the prestigious Committee on Privileges and Elections and also to the Committees on Enrolled Bills and on Agriculture and Mining. The assembly session in the winter of 1881–1882 enacted a large number of significant economic reform measures, including the Readjusters’ debt refinancing plan that led to a significant increase in money available for public schools. Among the many reform measures of interest to African Americans were a constitutional amendment to abolish the poll tax and laws to establish a college for African Americans (what became Virginia State University) and to abolish the whipping post, a painful and humiliating relic of slavery days. Scott had the distinction of serving in the majority in one of the most important legislative sessions of the nineteenth century.

In August 1883 the Republican-Readjuster coalition convention renominated Scott. He easily won reelection by a margin of 1,939 to 998, but the coalition lost its majorities in both houses in the November general election. Scott thereafter served in low-ranking seats on the Committees on Schools and Colleges, on Labor and the Poor, on Executive Expenditures, and on Enrolled Bills. He offered only one bill in that session of the assembly, to authorize the trustees of Mount Herman Church, in Amelia County, to borrow money, but it did not pass. During a special session that began in August 1884, the Democratic Party majority began rolling back some of the Readjusters’ reforms, but Scott remained loyal to the Readjuster agenda. He cast the only vote in the House against a bill to reimburse the treasurer of Lynchburg who had been sued for enforcing one of the laws designed to suppress payment of taxes with coupons from bonds issued in the 1870s. Scott also voted against overriding the governor’s veto of the Anderson-McCormick Act that in effect gave Democrats almost complete control over the conduct of elections.

Scott either did not run for or did not receive the Republican Party nomination for another term in the House of Delegates in 1885. He considered running for the nomination again in 1891 but did not, perhaps because he had been elected an overseer of the poor in Nottoway in May of that year. A trustee of Jedediah Baptist Church in the 1880s, Scott deeded a half-acre of his Burkeville property to the renamed New Yielding Zion Church in 1893. Still fairly prominent at the end of the century, he received a summons to Richmond in September 1900 as a member of a panel from which a federal trial jury was to be selected. The following month Scott took possession of a forty-five and a half acre tract for which he had previously paid the back taxes. He sold ten acres of the land in May 1908 and the remainder that August. He sold his Burkeville property on December 23, 1908, with the condition that the new owner allow him to remain in the house until his death. Archer Scott died after January 5, 1909, when he appeared before a notary to confirm his land sale, and probably before July 31, 1909, when a county officer certified the personal property tax records for that year and Scott’s name was not included. The place of his burial is not recorded.

MAP
TIMELINE
Ca. May 1836

Archer Scott is born into slavery, probably in Nottoway County, where he resides with his wife, Angelina or Angeline (maiden name unrecorded), after the Civil War.

1860s

Of mixed-race ancestry, Archer Scott is described as being about five feet five inches tall with a black mustache and a bald spot on his crown. U.S. Census enumerators identify him as a farmer.

October 22, 1867

Archer Scott is one of many African American men who vote for the first time when the military oversees the election of delegates to a convention called to write a new constitution as required by Congress as part of the Reconstruction Acts.

1875–1876

Archer Scott proposes several measures, none of which pass, including those to require sheriffs to summon white and Black voters as potential jurors, to license gambling houses, and to reduce fraud at elections.

October 1875

Archer Scott and his wife borrow $60 to purchase a three-acre lot of land in the town of Burkeville.

November 1875

Archer Scott wins election as a Republican to a two-year term to represent Nottoway County in the House of Delegates.

February 17, 1876

Archer Scott votes against a provision to the state constitution, which is ratified that fall, to require a poll tax for voting and to disfranchise men convicted of petty offences.

1879–1880

Early in the session, Archer Scott votes for William Mahone, a former Confederate general and leader of the Readjusters, for the United States Senate.

November 1879

Archer Scott wins election to the House of Delegates again after Amelia County was added to the Nottoway County district.

November 1881

Archer Scott wins reelection when a coalition of Republicans and Readjusters win majorities in the General Assembly. Scott is appointed to the prestigious Committee on Privileges and Elections.

November 1883

Archer Scott easily wins reelection by a margin of 1,939 to 998, but the Republican and Readjuster coalition loses its majorities in both houses. Scott serves in low-ranking seats on the Committees on Schools and Colleges, on Labor and the Poor, on Executive Expenditures, and on Enrolled Bills.

May 1891

Archer Scott is elected an overseer of the poor in Nottoway.

1893

A trustee of Jedediah Baptist Church in the 1880s, Archer Scott deeds a half acre of his Burkeville property to the renamed New Yielding Zion Church in 1893.

September 1900

Archer Scott receives a summons to Richmond as a member of a panel from which a federal trial jury is to be selected.

October 1900

Archer Scott takes possession of a forty-five and a half acre tract of land. He sells ten acres of the land in May 1908 and the remainder that August.

December 23, 1908

Archer Scott sells his Burkeville property, with the condition that the new owner allow him to remain in the house until his death.

1909

Archer Scott dies after January 5, 1909, when he appears before a notary to confirm his land sale, and probably before July 31, 1909, when his name is not included in the personal property tax records for that year.

FURTHER READING

Jackson, Luther Porter. Negro Office-Holders in Virginia, 1865–1895. Norfolk, Va.: Guide Quality Press, 1945.

CITE THIS ENTRY
APA Citation:
Tarter, Brent & Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Archer Scott (ca. May 1836–1909). (2022, May 27). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/archer-scott-ca-may-1836-1909.
MLA Citation:
Tarter, Brent, and Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Archer Scott (ca. May 1836–1909)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (27 May. 2022). Web. 29 Nov. 2022
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