Political Tendencies in Louisiana

By Perry H. Howard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V Another Look at Reconstruction

I. The Electoral Foundation of Post-Bellum Politics: An Ecological Panel

The curves derived from plotted changes in total and voting populations decade by decade in Appendix A, Table 1 and Table 2 for nation, section, and state provide dramatic evidence of the hiatus created by the actions culminating in the Secession of 1861. It is as if a great tear had split the political fabric of society. Although the Civil War did not destroy the Democratic Party as a national organization, the party captured the presidency but two times before 1912, and its proportion of the popular vote emerged above 50 percent only in the disputed defeat of its candidate in 1876. In the defeated section, a struggle for power is revealed in the narrow percentage advantage the Democrats held over the Republicans. In Louisiana, however, said to be the state that bore the most severe Reconstruction experience,1 close contest with the Republicans was, up to 1876, followed by a surge of extreme Democratic solidarity.

The gap between total population and voting age population narrowed in Louisiana after the war, for now, the Negro was reckoned to be a human being and a citizen whose vote made him an important pawn in the struggle for political power. The closeness to which the curve of voter registration approached that of voting age population is evidence of that. The Negro moved to center stage in the political drama of Reconstruction and its aftermath in Louisiana.

The Democratic Party remained strong in the old centers of Jacksonianism in the South, but also gained the support of and was even captured by the old Whig-supporting plantation owners and

____________________
1
Willie Malvin Caskey, Secession and Restoration of Louisiana ( Baton Rouge, 1938), vii.

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