Ulysses S. Grant: Politician

By William B. Hesseltine | Go to book overview

Chapter XI The End of Reconstruction

WHILE bulls and bears bellowed and growled on Wall Street and momentarily attracted popular attention, the perennial problem of the South gave the Administration much anxiety. Just before Grant left Washington for a summer's outing at Long Branch, the Virginians voted to accept a Radical Constitution. In Virginia as in the remainder of the country, the people were beginning to tire of Reconstruction and its problems. Though General Stoneman's sway had been tactful and mild, they were eager to resume their place in the Union. The military governments in other Southern States had taught a vicarious lesson in favor of peaceable acquiescence, and many of them were intrigued by the prospects of the prosperity to follow their submission. Indeed, Horace Greeley and the Tribune held out to all the South the lure of industrial development with its attendant riches. With the new Constitution ratified, Greeley assured Virginia, immigrants would hasten into the State to divide up large plantations, and capital from the North would pour in to develop the natural resources.1

As soon as Grant proposed to Congress that the Virginia Constitution be submitted with a separate vote on its proscriptive features, political activity had begun throughout the state. Soon there emerged two parties, one of Radicals headed by the civil Governor, H. H. Wells, and one of Conservatives with General Gilbert C. Walker, a native Virginia Unionist, as its candidate.2

Both Walker and Wells declared themselves supporters of Grant's Administration, and each hastened to give assurance that he favored the immediate ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment. Each side represented itself as the "true" Republican Party of the State, and each appealed to Grant and the party leaders for endorsement. The Conservatives were particularly insistent, sending numerous delegations to Washington, and writing appealing letters to the leading party journals. But neither President Grant nor the Republican politicians felt justified in making any partisan commitment and the campaign

____________________
1
New York Tribune, May 3, 8, 22, 29, June 14, July 8.
2
New York Tribune, July 10; S. S. Cox, Three Decades of Federal Legislation.

-180-

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