The Scalawag in Alabama Politics, 1865-1881

By Sarah Woolfolk Wiggins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
REVOLUTIONARY TIMES

While the Unionist-led reorganization of Alabama progressed, ominous signs in Washington suggested that Presidential Reconstruction was in trouble. In 1866 Congress daily grew stronger in its struggle for domination of the federal government as President Johnson unwittingly alienated moderate support by his vetoes of the second Freedmen's Bureau Bill and the Civil Rights Bill. After Congress overrode his vetoes in the spring of 1866, Johnson's friends urged him to organize a new conservative movement as a gamble for political survival. National Union Clubs were formed throughout the country hoping to defeat Radical candidates in the fall congressional elections, and Alabama Unionist leaders as well as ex-Confederates supported the movement. Alabama delegates to the national convention were chosen at a convention of "Constitutional Union" men meeting at Selma on August 2, 1866. After the election of thirty-two delegates (which included Unionists and ex-Confederates) the Selma convention organized itself into a new political party in Alabama to be known as the Democratic and Conservative party, recognizing the need to attract ex-Whigs as well as Democrats to their party. They created an executive committee headed by James Holt Clanton of Montgomery, an ex-Whig and a former Confederate general. Unfortunately, the momentum of the optimistic beginning to arouse support for Presidential Reconstruction soon faltered. When the National Union Convention opened in Philadelphia on August 14, 1866, there was neither unanimity of purpose among the members nor agreement on how to defeat congressional Radicals in upcoming elections.1

When President Johnson saw that the National Union movement was unable to generate the ground swell of support he needed, he next took his case to the people via his "swing around the circle" in late August and September, 1866. This effort dissolved into a political disaster for the President and further alienated that support he had so eagerly sought. The result was predictable. The Republican victory in the November congressional elections was so overwhelming as to provide a two-thirds majority for Johnson's opponents.2

As Alabamians watched these turns of national events, they did not

-18-

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The Scalawag in Alabama Politics, 1865-1881
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • BARUCH AWARDS - 1927-1976 ii
  • Title Page ii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xix
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - UNIONISTS HAVE THEIR DAY 5
  • Chapter 2 - REVOLUTIONARY TIMES 18
  • Chapter 3 - CROSSING THE RUBICON 33
  • Chapter 4 - THE HORNS OF A DILEMMA 56
  • Chapter 7 - AT SEA WITHOUT A RUDDER 108
  • Chapter 8 - CONCLUSION 128
  • Appendix - REPUBLICAN NOMINATIONS AND APPOINTMENTS, ALABAMA, 1868-1881 136
  • Notes 154
  • Bibliography 191
  • Index 203
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