Ulysses S. Grant: Politician

By William B. Hesseltine | Go to book overview

Chapter XXI White Supremacy

ALTHOUGH the financial problems resulting from the panic of 1873 occupied the major portion of men's thoughts in the first part of Grant's second Administration, the problem of the South continued to trouble the ruling party and its President. With the mass of thinking men constantly more critical of Grant's conduct, his course in regard to Southern troubles seemed but to confirm the people in their distrust of the party. Democrats and "Liberals" found themselves in hearty disagreement with the President's measures, and in the end even the Republicans turned against their President. Eventually the Southern whites profited from Grant's declining popularity.

By the election of 1872, the States of Georgia, Tennessee and Texas went into the "redeemed" column, and together with Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri gave Greeley the only electoral votes he polled in the Grant landslide. In the Carolinas, Virginia, Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi the combination of Federal office-holders, United States troops, and Negro voters kept a majority in line for Grant. The reform elements in the North were not inclined to forget the part which this combination played in their defeat, and lost no opportunity to attack Grant's Southern policy.

In all of the Republican States of the South there was much with which Grant's opponents could quarrel, but after the election of 1872 the situation in Louisiana made such a stench in the national nostrils that other and less putrid spots were generally ignored. The Louisiana muddle was the President's most constant source of embarrassment and anxiety.

The roots of the Louisiana troubles lay deep in the period when military governors aided carpetbaggers and scalawags in using Negro voters to control the State. Fraud and violence had marked the bitter struggle in which the native whites had sought to recapture political control. As in the rest of the South, the carpetbaggers and Negroes had extravagantly increased the State's debt in their haste to bring it abreast of Northern progress. Expenditures for schools and loans or guarantees to nascent railroads increased all debts in the South, and in

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