The Third Electoral System 1853-1892: Parties, Voters, and Political Cultures

By Paul Kleppner | Go to book overview

4
From Realignment to Equilibrium: Stabilizing the Third Electoral System

For I believe, on my conscience, that on the continued ascendency of [the Union] party, depends the safety of this great nation. If impartial suffrage is excluded in the rebel States, then every one of them is sure to send a solid rebel representative delegation to Congress, and cast a solid rebel electoral vote. They, with their kindred copperheads of the North, would always elect the President and control Congress.

Thaddeus Stevens ( 1867)

Stevens was not prescient, but he could count. He was aware by 1867 of the softness of Republican voting strength in electorally critical states of the North.1 He was aware, too, that Republican antisouthernism and Yankee pietism would not naturally translate into voting strength among former Confederates. And most importantly, he was aware of the impact that the readmission of the seceded states would have on the arithmetic of American politics.

In 1860 the eleven states that a year later united to form the Confederate States of America contained 27.9 percent of the country's total population; they had cast 18.2 percent of the nation's popular vote and 29.0 percent of its electoral vote. The region was entitled to elect one- third of the full Senate membership, as well as 25.2 percent of the House. Indeed, Republican control in the Thirty-seventh Congress (elected in 1860) was assured only with the withdrawal of the southerners and was secured throughout the war years by their continued absence coupled with abnormally strong Republican delegations from the loyal slave states. Although growth in population, the admission of new states, and subsequent decennial reapportionments of congressional districts

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1
The Stevens quotation is from Appletons' Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of Important Events of the Year, 1867, p. 207. Nor was Stevens a voice in the wilderness; other Republicans recognized the same danger. See James G. Blaine, Twenty Years of Congress, 2:408; Kenneth Larry Tomlinson, "Indiana Republicans and the Negro Suffrage Issue, 1865-1867," pp. 9-13.

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