Post-Bellum Republicans and the Southern Black Vote

(December 27, 2017) One of the reasons the Republican Party wanted ex-slaves to vote after the Civil War was because they knew that freedmen would vote Republican and thereby help the infant GOP hold onto power in Washington. Even though widely acclaimed for winning the Civil War, candidate Ulysses Grant only got 53% of the popular vote in the 1868 presidential election, which was the first one after the Civil War. If it had not been for Southern blacks Grant would have failed to win a majority of the popular vote, although he would have won the electoral vote. In other words, only a minority of whites voted for Grant.

Eight years later the situation had changed for two reasons.

First, the country was in the midst of its worst economic depression up to that time. Growing numbers of Republican and Northern voters concluded that the corrupt carpetbagger’s focus on lining his own pocket was choking the South’s economic recovery  to a point where it was also hindering America’s overall economy. Thus, the Party was willing to make a deal to manipulate the presidential votes one last time in order to get their man in the White House. The Republicans would disclose the insincerity of their merely rhetorical advocacy for blacks in a deal that would permit white Southerners to reagin control of the carpetbagger states.

Specifically, the Republicans would use the ballot-counting machine of Louisiana’s crooked carpetbaggers to steal the state’s electoral votes for “Rutherfraud” B. Hayes. In exchange, Hayes would remove federal troops from the three Southern states where they remained: Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida. Hayes would also require that Southern  Democrats acquiesce to a switch in the electoral tallies for South Carolina and Florida from the Democratic column, where the original vote put them, into the Republican column. The switch would assure Hayes’s election by a single electoral vote. Although all three states had voter fraud on both sides, Hayes’s deal allowed the Republicans to pretend that the fraud was predominantly among the Democrats.

Second, the pragmatic Republican politicians of 1876 could foresee that the South’s black vote would become an unnecessary way of maintaining Republican control in Washington. They recognized that the established geographic population growth and migration patterns favored states with few blacks and otherwise populated by—or likely to be populated by—characteristically Republican demographics.

From 1860 to 1876 the electoral votes for the eleven states of the former Confederacy where blacks composed forty percent of the population increased from 88 to 95. By comparison, over the same period the electoral votes from the twenty-two states that remained Union-loyal during the Civil War where blacks composed less than five percent of the population increased from 215 to 260. Additionally, the Republican-dominated states of Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, and Colorado, which had not been permitted to vote in 1860, provided an additional 14 electoral votes to Hayes in 1876. All four had few black voters. In short, the states of the former Confederacy represented only 29% of the total electoral votes cast in 1876 as compared to 35% in 1860. Moreover, few blacks lived in the Northern and Western states holding 71% of the total electoral votes in the centennial year.

Finally, the next seven states to join the Union after 1876—North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah—were overwhelmingly white and generally Republican. Each of the seven, for example, sent two more Republicans to the United States Senate upon being admitted to the Union. Oklahoma would be the first decidedly Democratic state to join the union after the Civil War. That would not happen until 1907, which was thirty years after President Grant left office.* Thus, the practical Republican politician of 1875 realized that black votes would steadily decline in value in terms of retaining the Party’s control in Washington.

After 1876 the morality of racial equality would generally stand alone as the chief reason for politically supporting blacks, but its was evidently an insufficient cause for the typical nineteenth century Republican. For fourteen years after Hayes’s 1876 election the Party virtually ignored blacks until 1890 when Republican President Benjamin Harrison was approaching a tight race for reelection against Democrat Grover Cleveland in 1892. Harrison took the office away from Cleveland in 1888 with an electoral vote majority despite losing the popular vote. In order to help Harrison in the 1892 election Congressman Henry Cabot Lodge introduced a bill that would provide for federal supervision of elections in the South.

Democrats opposed the bill because they feared that Harrison-appointed federal supervisors might put their thumbs on the scale of Republican candidates. Thus, the Republican Party was prepared to make another deal that would throw blacks under the omnibus. Specifically, they abandoned Lodge’s elections bill in exchange for Democratic support of the McKinley Tariff, which was designed to protect Northern industries from foreign competition. The protected industries employed few blacks and had even fewer black owners. The average duty increase from 38% to 50% was almost entirely for the benefit of Northern whites.

***

*Oklahoma was also the first state to be initially admitted after the Civil War with a significant minority population, which were Native Americans. In fact, the “Civilized Tribes” encompassing the Cherokee, Seminole, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Creeks located in the eastern half of the territory hoped to be admitted as a separate state. They planned to name it Sequoyah in honor of the originator of the Cherokee alphabet. Republican President Theodore Roosevelt blocked the plan. If Oklahoma were split into two separate parts, he reasoned, each part would likely  send two more Democrats to the U. S. Senate. That would give the former Oklahoma Territory four Democratic Senators instead of only two.

***

Presently Amazon and Barnes & Noble Online are out-of-stock of my latest book, Southern Reconstruction. Although my publisher has ordered a second printing, the production run will not be completed until next month.

Meanwhile, some physical Barnes & Noble stores do have them in stock. Go to this link, and click on the “Want it today? Check Store Availability,” which is in small print to the right of the picture cover. The link will prompt you to enter your zip code and afterward display a list of stores nearby and will also indicate which ones have Southern Reconstruction in stock. Some other independent physical stores may also have the title in stock.

Finally, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have eBook versions available.

My Amazon Author Page

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s