The Scalawag in Alabama Politics, 1865-1881

The Scalawag in Alabama Politics, 1865-1881

The Scalawag in Alabama Politics, 1865-1881

The Scalawag in Alabama Politics, 1865-1881

Excerpt

Scalawags have had a bad press in Alabama as well as elsewhere in the South. Alabamians frequently have practiced amnesia in dealing with scalawags, preferring to forget them, whether direct ancestors or not, or at least dismiss them as being guilty of a gross lapse of judgment in the turmoil of the post-Civil War years. Even historian Thomas M. Owen omitted scalawag governor William Hugh Smith from the biographical sketches in his four-volume History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, the only governor accorded such distinction. Although Willis Brewer and William Garrett bravely included prominent scalawags in their significant nineteenth-century biographical collections, someone has neatly sliced out the sketch of Alabama's other scalawag governor David P. Lewis from The University of Alabama's copy of Brewer Alabama. Over the tissue-paper patch a delicate Victorian hand has inscribed, "It seems that someone has removed the sketch of David P. Lewis which originally occupied this page; he was Alabama's second scalawag governor (1872-1874)."

In the century since Reconstruction, although few kind words have fallen on the scalawags, no one has produced a more thorough or more scornful definition of a scalawag than did one of their contemporaries in 1868:

Our scalawag is the local leper of the community. Unlike the carpetbagger, he is native, which is so much the worse. Once he was respected in his circle; his head was level, and he could look his neighbor in the face. Now, possessed of the itch of office and the salt rheum of Radicalism, he is a mangy dog, slinking through the alleys, haunting the Governor's office, defiling with tobacco juice the steps of the Capitol, stretching his lazy carcass in the sun on the Square, or the benches of the Mayor's Court.

He waiteth for the troubling of the political waters, to the end that he may step in and be healed of his itch by the ointment of office. For office he "bums" as a toper "bums" for the satisfying dram. For office, yet in prospective, he hath bartered principle and respectability; hath abandoned business and ceased to labor with his hands, but employs his feet kicking out boot-heels against lamp post and corner curb, while discussing the question of office.

The normal condition of the unofficed scalawag is seedy. Mayhap, there hang about him some remnant of gray cloth that floats him a remainder of the Confederate era, before he fell from political grace, and was changed into a scalawag. His obsequious meekness and self-abasement in the . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.