The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics

By George C. Rable | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
The Elections of 1863 and Political Fragmentation

M ore than six months before the first state and Confederate elections of 1863, William Lowndes Yancey pondered the political future. Disenchanted with Jefferson Davis and fearful of "consolidated nationalism," he nevertheless opposed the formation of political parties. From his pristinely republican perspective, "good patriots" too often fell into "the error of approving palpable violations of personal rights and of state sovereignty." He urged Confederate citizens to elect officials who would embody a "strict adherence to constitutional government and rigid observance of the reserved rights of the states."1 This highly abstract prescription for defending liberty guaranteed ineffective opposition and further political fragmentation. There was of course a certain consistency in this view. Among the sacred principles that Yancey would never sacrifice to the demands of expediency, his belief in the evils of political parties remained paramount.

By spring 1863 as both the military and political campaign seasons began, the Confederacy was returning to a preparty political system. The absence of parties and public suspicion of traditional political practices dampened public interest in elections, reduced participation, and allowed citizens to focus most of their attention on military affairs. The scattering of state and congressional elections from May to November prevented voters from expressing clear and timely preferences for candidates or policies. Local and state issues often dominated these contests, but na-

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