Zeb Vance: North Carolina's Civil War Governor and Gilded Age Political Leader

By Gordon B. McKinney | Go to book overview

25 DECLINE

During the last three years of his life, Zeb entered a period of gradual political and physical decline. While evidence of his slow loss of influence and energy was obvious at various times, the fact that his health was declining was masked by bursts of accomplishment. It is important to recognize that at this time there was a fundamental historical shift that would have undermined Zeb's political position whether he had been in good health or not. At times, Zeb seemed to recognize the changes happening both around him and to him and to accept them with some grace. At other times, he resisted the new forces of change with a ferocity that brought his youth to mind. Throughout this entire period, however, he remained in the public eye, and that fact was of enormous importance to this extroverted political figure.

Toward the end of the 1891 congressional session, his health began to deteriorate once again. There is very little direct evidence as to what his physical problems were, but the best existing evidence indicates that all of the pressure associated with his reelection campaign caused a recurrence of the symptoms that had plagued him two years earlier. He apparently became quite weak and tired, and he was unable to carry out his duties as a senator.1 Florence decided that the only cure for Zeb's condition would be an extended vacation. Apparently recognizing that taking time away at Gombroon would not be enough of a break, she arranged for Zeb to take an extended foreign tour for the first time in his life.

Zeb, Florence, and her son Harry Martin set sail for Europe on May 27, 1891.The crossing took eight days, and the ride was smooth for the first four days, but the ocean became quite rough after that. Zeb admitted that he had experienced enough seasickness on the journey "to satisfy any curiosity that I may have felt." He told another correspondent that he had thrown "up everything except my seat in the Senate!" The party landed at Queenstown in Ireland and traveled rapidly through Cork, Killarney, Dublin, and Belfast. When they reached Ulster, Florence and Harry continued on to the west coast, where the family home of Florence's first husband was located. Florence proved to be an avid tourist, and she loved Ireland. Apparently she suffered a number of scrapes and falls during the trip, but she was not

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Zeb Vance: North Carolina's Civil War Governor and Gilded Age Political Leader
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vi
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1: What Manner of Man? 1
  • 2: A Mountain Boyhood 5
  • 3: Scholar and Suitor 16
  • 4: Lawyer and Apprentice Politician 31
  • 5: Congressman 49
  • 6: Secession Crisis 65
  • 7: Colonel of the Twenty-Sixth Regiment 78
  • 8: Campaign for Governor 97
  • 9: Building a Strong North Carolina 110
  • 10: Relations with the Confederate Government 130
  • 11: Growing Challenges 152
  • 12: Protest 168
  • 13: Challenges to the Compromise 185
  • 14: Campaign for Reelection 200
  • 15: Returned to Office 217
  • 16: Defeat with Honor 231
  • 17: Prisoner 248
  • 18: The Politics of Reconstruction 264
  • 19: Frustrated Politician 283
  • 20: The Battle of Giants 302
  • 21: Governor Again 324
  • 22: United States Senator 345
  • 23: Party Leader 366
  • 24: Farmers' Alliance and Reelection 384
  • 25: Decline 397
  • 26: Monuments and the Man 406
  • Notes 417
  • Index 467
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