The Confederate Congress

By Wilfred Buck Yearns | Go to book overview

XV
THE LOYAL OPPOSITION

ANYONE OBSERVING THE PREVALENCE OF EXPERIENCED POLITICIANS flocking to Montgomery in February, 1861, might have foretold one part of the Confederacy's future: that not even a war for survival would bring political harmony to the South. Certainly, conditions in the early days of the Confederacy were favorable to such harmony. Grievances against the North had been temporarily resolved by secession and could no longer serve as political vehicles; many people had questioned the advisability of secession, but, once faced with its accomplished fact, Southerners were in essential agreement on matters of government; the threat of possible coercion by the United States accentuated the need for political unity. Nevertheless, when Robert Toombs wrote from Montgomery that there was no difference of opinion in Congress,1 he was correct only in reference to devotion to the Cause. Considering the total picture of the South at the time, the continuation of practical politics in the Confederacy was inevitable.

Undoubtedly, however, the leaders in the Provisional Congress at first attempted to bury the political hatchet for the duration; 2 in one respect their efforts were rewarded, for the expected rivalries within Congress of secessionist versus conservative and Democrat versus Whig never fully materialized. Past politics never influenced law-making and was significant in Congress only regarding patronage. Although in the Provisional Congress the former Democrats and secessionists outnumbered their old rivals only by about a three-to-two ratio, during the first session the former cliques could not conceal their hope for political preferment nor their pique at not receiving it. For instance, Thomas R. R. Cobb, the Georgia radical, deplored the fact that "Hunter (milk and water), Rives (submissionist) and Brockenbrough and

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