Missouri, the Heart of the Nation

By William E. Parrish; Charles T. Jones Jr. et al. | Go to book overview

TEN
Radical Rule

The Radical Union Party sat firmly in the saddle as Missouri moved into the post–Civil War era. This new political force included an amazing variety of discontented groups: Germans, who had begun arriving in Missouri in large numbers during the 1850s, with their strong antislavery bent and forward-looking social outlook; small farmers and poor whites of the Ozark and north Missouri regions, who had little interest in slavery but were disturbed by the guerrilla warfare that had torn up their areas; St. Louis merchants and would-be capitalists, who saw the state's potential for economic growth after the war as dependent upon getting rid of slavery; and a few ardent abolitionists, who sincerely wished to improve the lot of the black population. Most were newcomers to politics and eager to make the most of its opportunities for economic power.

Considerable violence still existed as the war wound down early in 1865. But the Radicals already anticipated the conflict's end and were anxious to get on with the task of reconstruction as Governor Thomas C. Fletcher took the oath of office on January 2. "Being victorious everywhere," he urged his followers, "let magnanimity now distinguish our action; and, having nothing more to ask for party, let us, forgetful of past differences, seek only to promote the general good of the people of the whole commonwealth."

Had the Radicals heeded their governor they might have had a more far-reaching political influence on the state. They had a progressive, farsighted program that laid a strong foundation for Missouri's postwar growth. But they let fear of and revenge toward their political enemies overshadow their positive programs, and this ultimately split and destroyed their party.

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