South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER LVI
THE OVERTHROW OF RECONSTRUCTION, 1876

GOVERNOR CHAMBERLAIN'S grief at the election of Whipper and Moses was both patriotic and partisan. It means, he said, the organization of the Democrats as never since 1865. That dispirited party had thus far maintained a feeble existence, seeking partial escape from intolerable conditions by fusing with reform Republicans or hopelessly doing nothing, and under the designation of "Conservatives" even disowning its own name. All was now changed by the suicidal act of the Republicans. If, under the best Governor that Southern Republicans could ever be expected to elect, only a handful of his party could be rallied to oppose the pollution of the bench, what hope was there of decent government except by the restoration of white control?

Probably a majority at this time expected a great Democratic rally to support Chamberlain for re-election, for Republicans both here and in the North were raging against him as a traitor. When the Governor, to assert his leadership, announced his candidacy as national delegate at large before the April convention of the South Carolina Republicans, Senator Morton of Indiana, to whom he had elaborately explained that his loyalty to the party was as unimpeachable as his opposition to corruption, delegated his colleague, "Honest John" Patterson, to destroy him. The Governor's chances seemed hopeless when he was defeated 40 to 8 for temporary chairman. Nominated for delegate at large amid derisive laughter, he was attacked with all the bitterness of a disappointed party deprived of its expected plunder and enraged at his praise of the civilization of the Puritan and the Cavalier. Rising in the all-night session at four A.M., Chamberlain for an hour and a half held the convention spellbound by a defense which the metropolitan reporters classed with the greatest orations of the generation. The men who an hour before were ready to destroy him elected him by an almost two-thirds majority.

Meanwhile the Democrats were divided into two warmly contending factions: the Co-operationists, or Fusionists, who believed that success was possible only by combining with Chamberlain; and the Straightouts, who stood for a direct fight "from Governor to Coroner." With a 20,000 or more Negro majority, said the News and Courier, a Straightout

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