The Congressional Career of Thomas Francis Bayard, 1869-1885

The Congressional Career of Thomas Francis Bayard, 1869-1885

The Congressional Career of Thomas Francis Bayard, 1869-1885

The Congressional Career of Thomas Francis Bayard, 1869-1885

Excerpt

Bayard's Senatorial career began in 1869 when Congressional Reconstruction of the Southern States was in its early stages. He had a deep sympathy for the South in its struggles against Republican misrule, and he strove in every way to lighten the load that vindictive Radicals attempted to impose upon that devastated section. He never overlooked an opportunity to present to the people of the entire nation the fundamental truth that any program designed to destroy the liberties of the Southern voters would in the end react adversely upon every section of the Union: "Justice to the South is selfprotection to the North." More than any other member of the Senate, Bayard in his speeches drove home this important truth. The leaders and the people of the South were aware of the fight that Bayard was making in their behalf and they sent him countless letters expressing their gratitude. In 1896, Representative Tucker paid a belated tribute to Bayard's assistance to the South during the period of Reconstruction: "Nor can I forget that in those dark days that followed the late Civil War, when reason was dethroned in these halls and passion was holding high carnival, when my people in the South lay prostrate, bleeding at every pore, with anxious hearts and eager eyes straining to catch the sound of one sympathetic voice amid the roar of unbridled passion, Thomas F. Bayard stepped into the arena almost singlehanded, and alone and cheerfully accepted the gage of battle in behalf of a brave but friendless people."

This ardent championship of a stricken section made him suspect in the North and helped to blight his Presidential prospects. His sympathy for the South was regarded by the Radicals as something akin to treason, and they helped to create the impression that his nomination as President would be a breach of faith with the millions who had worked and fought to save the Union. In the South many politicians were fearful of making Bayard their standard-bearer because large groups of voters in the North resented his affection for Dixie. If Bayard in 1880 had received the undivided support of the section he so warmly championed, he would have been elected President.

In his fight for sound currency, Bayard alienated multitudes of voters who looked to inflation as an important means of discharging a burden of indebtedness that threatened forever to keep them down in the lower levels of living. But he disdained to follow any popular path to the White House: he could say with far more sincerity than Henry Clay that he would "rather be right than President."

There has been in recent years a growing demand for a biography of Bayard based upon the abundant data in the Bayard, Cleveland, Hayes, Hewitt . . .

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