The Democratic Party: My Third and Current Paradigm (Part 4)

This Part 4 deals with Democrats during the Reconstruction Era. N.B. I overpromised (yet another euphemism for "erred"): This Part 4 does not get to FDR--or even to Wilson.
Parts 1-3:

Reconstruction--of the fractured Union, as well as of the former Confederate states--began in 1863, the year that the Emancipation Proclamation became effective (on January 1) and Lincoln issued a Proclamation of Amnesty. Reconstruction ended with the Compromise of 1877 (see paragraph 7, below). Both Republican Lincoln and Democrat Johnson originally believed in making it easy for each Confederate State* to return to the Union. However, Congressional Radical Republicans thought this too lenient and also wanted to advance black people as much and as rapidly as possible. Supposedly, Lincoln began favoring somewhat stricter reconstruction policies before he died; Johnson never did. Because Lincoln was assassinated days after the Civil War ended, the first steps of Reconstruction fell to Johnson.

Johnson allowed states to return to the Union with their "rebel"--and most likely Democratic--leadership intact; and they began enacting the infamous Black Codes (as did or had Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Tammany-controlled New York). In December, 1865, in Pulaski, Tennessee, a group of Confederate Army veterans formed the Ku Klux Klan. (Guess to which Party many Klan members belonged.) Early in 1866, a Republican Congress passed a civil rights bill, which Democrat Johnson vetoed. For the first time in U.S. history, Congress overrode a Presidential veto. (The rarity of overrides being a point in

In every former slave state, African Americans constituted an "overwhelming" majority of Republican voters, the balance being "scalawags" and "carpetbaggers." Freed slaves were elected to state and federal offices. The 1866 midterm election also gave Republicans a 2/3 majority in each House of Congress, enough to override any Presidential veto, beginning in March, 1867.

These Republican Reconstruction policies would solidify white Southerners’ loyalty to the Democratic Party for many decades to come....During Reconstruction, Republicans would become increasingly associated with big business and financial interests in the more industrialized North. The federal government had expanded during the war (including passage of the first income tax) and Northern financiers and industrialists had greatly benefited from its increased spending. . (Please note: According to the author of the quoted material, Democrats originally succeeded in the South by opposing Republicans and attempting to return to the past--the former perhaps making Democrats the first "Party of No" and the latter being typically associated with conservatives.)

In 1868, the year of Johnson's impeachment (referenced in Part 3), the formidable Ulysses S. Grant, an Ohioan whose acceptance of the sword of General Lee had ended the Civil War, was elected President, winning the black vote (No surprise: Democrats, with New Yorker Horatio Seymour at the top of the ticket, had run on restoring all Confederate states to the union immediately, with forgiveness for all past "transgressions.") Grant took office in March, 1869. Unfortunately, his administration was corrupt, which contributed to waning of support for Reconstruction, including among Republicans outside the South.

By 1870, all former slave states had been re-admitted to the Union, almost all of them controlled by Republicans. In 1871, empowered by federal legislation, Grant sent federal troops to enforce the rights of freed slaves. The historic Presidential election of 1872 saw Grant running against, not a Democrat, but a candidate of the Liberal Republican Party, Horace Greeley, a long-time editor of the New York Times. In hopes of ousting Grant, the Democratic Party had endorsed Greeley. Despite the two-party endorsement, Grant won the popular vote of 31 of 37 states. Greeley died after the popular vote, but before the electoral vote, which split the electoral vote that had been pledged to Greeley. By 1876, the Democratic Party, with considerable help from the Klan, despite the efforts of federal troops, had taken over in all but two of the former Confederate states.

Although urged to run for a third term, Grant declined. This led to the infamous, unwritten Compromise of 1877, by which federal troops would withdraw from the former Confederate states and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, another Ohioan, would be "elected" President. (How in Hell did I not know that the Republican Party and the Democratic Party had conspired to fix the U.S. Presidential election of 1878 a year earlier?) As Democrats regained control of former Confederate states, they began passing (and enforcing) discriminatory "Jim Crow laws," which, together with their predecessor Black Codes, were to perpetuate the de jure wrongs of this nation for a century after the end of the Civil War. Democratic states also prevented blacks from registering to vote and from voting, in violation of the Fifteenth Amendment, ratified in 1870. Many places that were privately-owned simply refused to serve or accommodate blacks.

In Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), the SCOTUS held that separate, or segregated, facilities and accommodations for whites and blacks were constitutional, so long as the quality were equal. Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan, a Kentuckian nominated by "Compromise President" Hayes, was the sole dissenter. Harlan had been affiliated with several parties, including the Democratic Party, before becoming a Republican. His brilliant dissent, which many legal scholars have praised, among other things, presciently predicted that Plessy v. Ferguson would become as infamous as Dred Scott v. Sandford. Of course, although public facilities indeed remained "separate," they were almost never "equal." **


* Anyone who believes that secession was not about retaining slavery and extending it to the Territories needs to read the Articles of Secession. (Every Confederate state's version was similar to that of South Carolina.) Secession was about states rights only to the extent of a state's "right" to retain slavery.

** Not only is my image of nine monkeys is grossly unfair to dissenter Harlan, but the full Supreme Court at this time seems to have consisted of only eight Justices So, I should be showing only seven monkeys, not nine. However, I could not find any image of the "hear, see and speak no evil" monkeys other than in groups of three. (Besides, I love that gif.)

Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan
Photo by either Matthew B. Brady or Levin C. Handy


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studentofearth's picture

have been closer in ideology than their members (foot soldiers or cannon fodder). Policy is often designed to influence voters not improve lives. The continuing conflict on immigration, health care and equal rights are a good examples no long lasting solution has been enacted since I have been able to vote in 1979. We have seen legislation with known time bombs (welfare reform)we we were assured would be easily fixed before it would hurt citizens. Executive orders easily reversed by an opposing administration. Every significant change have been clarified by the Supreme Court. Where openings are random and can be used to rally votes of foot soldiers.

The democratic presidents since Kennedy have been from area with deep history of racial conflict and suppression. I have this uncomfortable feeling the Confederacy won the long game.

Looking locally, in Oregon our progressive path included electing Barbara Roberts, who had married into a local Democratic family dynasty. She only last one term before being beaten by a challenger from her own party, John Kitzhaber. He represented one of the most conservative parts of the state and narrowly beat the progressive republican candidate. He retained power for over 30 years before corruption caught up. Our current Governor came in by default and probably a truer progressive. This year will the first legislative session since elected will we see substantial changes or more smoke and mirrors?

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Still yourself, deep water can absorb many disturbances with minimal reaction.
--When the opening appears release yourself.


much food for thought.

will we see substantial changes or more smoke and mirrors?

I don't know about your state or local officials. However, on the national stage, I have no faith left in the Democratic Party; and I never had any in the Republican Party.

I am almost sorry that I find so much of interest in the history of the Democratic Party. I enjoy learning, but all the tidbits slow me down; and I am itching to get to Wilson and FDR. At that point, I expect to be dodging rotten tomatoes, especially when I get to FDR.

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something so far in the past, but the picture is pretty clear that this sham has been going on for a long time, still lives today. Some things* change and fade away to be replaced by the new, and some things* never change. Looking forward to FDR and Wilson and our recent past.

*Anybody else write "thing" and feel self conscious? Damn!

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I've been trying to move forward quickly, but they were just so bad!

I learn so much when I get into these essays, but the blatant fixing of the 1872 election was a stunner. They had to get all the states to cooperate. And that was then, with handwritten, hand-counted ballots.

Why would anyone imagine that they are above fixing an election now, or in 2016? What Happened? The people who were supposed to make certain that Hillary won no matter what the actual vote was got cocky and screwed up. That's What Happened!

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@HenryAWallace that both sides would massage the process. I just can't see how either side would pass up an opportunity if it's there for the taking.

What's depressing is how these eras are covered in grade school. Bullet points covering legislation and facts, regurgitated on tests as rock solid history, when the laws were then ignored and the facts rewritten, and students left feeling something was accomplished, wrongs righted when it was the opposite of what happened. Just like today.

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