Sunday, December 18, 2011

Radical Republicans Seek No Racial Harmony

There was no intent on the part of Radical Republicans to foster racial harmony in the postwar South as their national political power depended upon exploiting racial divisions -- planting the seeds of hatred between black and white. Republicans herded newly-enfranchised blacks to the polls with one South Carolina observer commenting that “the election was a farce. Very few of the freedmen had any idea of what they were doing or even of how they could do it. They would vote into the post office or any hole they could find. Some of them carried home their ballots, greatly smitten with the red lettering and the head of Lincoln or supposing they could use them as warrants for land.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"

Radical Republicans Seek No Racial Harmony:

“During 1866 [General Wade] Hampton had appealed primarily to the white men of the State for kind treatment of the Negro; but during the winter the Radical [Republican] victories in the Congressional elections completely reversed the balance of power. By March of 1867 the General realized that the power of decision in the State as to harmony or strife between the races had passed to the Negro. Nevertheless, he sought with all his influence to persuade the blacks to join with the white men of the State in shaping the political structure.

The General failed in his efforts to win Negro support for moderate white leaders, and Negroes did go “into the political service of strangers.” They were exploited and then abandoned by their new-found friends, and new barriers were thus erected between them and the white people among whom their future lay, exactly as Hampton and his friends had warned them would be the case. If harmonious relations could have developed in South Carolina in spite of Reconstruction acts, Hampton pointed out the only possible road and urged the blacks to follow it.

Sound familiar?BT
The fact was, of course, that harmony between the races in the South was exactly what the Radicals in Washington and the numerous field representatives did not want. The kind of fishing that they planned to do required muddy water. It is a simple fact that, since their continuation in power depended on a solid Radical vote in the South, they deliberately hammered wedges between the races in every way that a powerful organization made possible, from quartering undisciplined Negro troops on Southern communities to endlessly reiterating to the Negroes that their former masters would re-enslave them if Southern whites ever got back into power.

By August 1867 Hampton was convinced of the utter futility of his efforts towards political harmony with the Negroes…[and] the next decade would prove [him] right. As had happened during the abolition movement and as would happen too often again, the pressure of Northern extremists on the Negro question forced moderate Southern friends of the black man into the camp of Southern extremists. And as usual, the deluded Negro sacrificed the substantial support of responsible men in his own community for the transitory enthusiasm of ardent champions from above the [Mason and Dixon] line, a process to this very day in evidence. By the end of 1867 the stage was set for a drama of misrule such as seldom has been seen in a civilized community.

The State constitutional convention met in Charleston in January [1868], under the supervision of the military governor. Of 124 delegates, seventy-six were Negroes. Of the forty-eight white men, twenty-seven were Southerners….known as “scalawags.” As the New York Times noted, “There is scarcely a Southern white man in the body whose character would keep him out of the penitentiary.” The remaining twenty-one white men, seven from Massachusetts, were petty federal officials and political adventurers. This was the type known as “carpetbaggers,” described by Horace Greely as “fellows who crawled down South in the track of our armies, generally at a very safe distance in the rear….And they stand, right in the public eye, stealing and plundering, many with both arms around negroes, and their hands in their rear pockets….”

(Wade Hampton and the Negro, Hampton M. Jarrell, USC Press, 1949, pp. 16-23)

Radical Republicans Seek No Racial Harmony

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