THE campaign of 1866 affords the only instance in American political history in which a Congressional election was deemed so important that four great political conventions were held to influence its results, and a president stumped the country to forward the fortunes of his friends only to be met with insults and indignities.
Had Andrew Johnson triumphed in this election, or had he even decreased the Radical strength in either House or Senate so that the Radicals would have had less than a two-thirds majority in either branch, the whole course of American history might have been altered, and altered for the best. As Blaine admits, there would have been no further amendment to the Constitution, there would have been no conditions of reconstruction. The South would have escaped ten cruel years of rule by carpetbagger and scalawag. The "Solid South" would never have been formed.
Andrew Johnson staked everything on an appeal to the people. It was his habit to trust in the commonalty, to believe that, when properly informed, the people would decide honestly and wisely. And so this year, betrayed by trusted Constitutional advisers, ignored by fanatic Radicals in Congress, and opposed by the Big Business of the day, which for its own ends had thrown its weight to the Radicals, Andrew Johnson determined to carry his case to the people for a verdict at the polls.1
The first step in this great appeal was to be the approaching Union meeting at Philadelphia, upon which great hopes were set by the Conservatives. Only two weeks before the date set for this meeting, the bright anticipations of Johnson's friends were dampened by a fearful riot in New Orleans. Following so closely upon the Memphis troubles, the New Orleans tragedy was a body blow to the prestige of Johnson's policies in the North.
The Memphis outbreak had been caused by trouble between the garrison of Third United States colored artillery and the city police, largely Irish in its personnel. On the afternoon of April 30 the colored gunners indulged in the dangerous pastime of jostling the Irish policemen off the sidewalks; fights broke