Wade Hampton: Confederate Warrior to Southern Redeemer

By Rod Andrew Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 29
VICTORY

A close examination of the 1876–77 election campaign in South Carolina, particularly one written from Hampton’s point of view, reveals how problematic it is to assume that Hampton was complicit in white violence and certainly how simplistic it is to lump all conservatives, including Hampton, together as white supremacists. Hampton was a racist, but painting him in the same image as Martin Gary or Benjamin R. Tillman is possible only when using broad strokes. Such a picture ignores the details of the campaign—the opposition Hampton faced from within his own ranks, the ambivalence of his feelings toward blacks, and the tricky political course that he had to steer from the summer of 1876 until the following spring. He had to portray himself as a man of “inflexible rectitude” as well as one of magnanimity while his own supporters attempted to cheat and cow their opponents—as the foe of dishonest government who simultaneously reached out to white and black supporters, or members, of the tainted regime. These were men Democrats considered hopelessly corrupt or even unfit for citizenship.1

Hampton earnestly strove to position himself—and be—a force for law and order even as his supporters conducted a ruthless campaign of terror and fraud. That he succeeded at all was testimony to his sagacity as well as his character. It was proof of how many white South Carolinians lauded him, and white and black Republicans acknowledged him, as a genuine example of what he claimed to be—a representative of the virtues that popular lore claimed for the elite leadership of the Old South.

Even during the confusing interregnum, when Democrats were striving to assert Hampton’s authority over Daniel Chamberlain, Hampton’s conciliatory gestures toward Republicans made some Democrats seethe. Hampton associated with fence-sitting Republicans both during and after the campaign. In late December, for example, he appointed Martin Delany, a talented black Republican, as a trial judge. Shortly after Chamberlain’s nomination, Hampton had welcomed into the fold Republican judges Thompson H. Cooke and Thomas J. Mackey, the uncle of E. W. M. Mackey, speaker of the Republican “Mackey House.” These two former scalawags campaigned with Hampton, urging blacks to vote

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