Zebulon B. Vance of North Carolina, former colonel, wartime governor and later United States Senator, explained to his Senate colleagues in 1879 by what manner the Southern States became solidly Democratic after the war. Vance, a prewar Unionist, was astonished at the temper of the Republican party victors and that they would subvert all law and civil governments in the South for the purpose of party supremacy.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Reasons for the Solid South
“Mr. President, who made the South solid?
The answer is as plain and unmistakable as it is possible to make anything to the human intellect: the Republican party is responsible for this thing. At the beginning of the late war almost the entire Whig party of the South, with a large and influential portion of the Democratic, were in favor of the Union and deprecated with their whole souls the attempt at its destruction, but through love of their native States and sympathy with their kindred and neighbors they were drawn into the support of the war.
Their wisdom in opposing it was justified by the ruinous results; their patriotism and courage were highly appreciated, and when peace came this class were in high favor at the South, while the secessionists as the original advocates of a disastrous policy were down in public estimation.
If you gentlemen of the North had then come forward with liberal terms and taken these men by the hand, you could have established a party in the South that would have perpetuated your power in this Government for a generation, provided you had listened to the views of those men, and respected their policy on questions touching their section.
But you pursued the very opposite course, a course which compelled almost every decent, intelligent man of Anglo-Saxon prejudices and traditions to take a firm and determined stand against you; a course which consolidated all shades of political opinion into one resolute mass to defend what they conceived to be their ancient forms of government, laws, liberties and civilization itself. By confiscation and the destruction of war, you had already stripped us of property to the extent of at least $3,000,000,000 and left our land desolate, rent and torn, our homes consumed with fire, and our pleasant places a wasted wilderness.
Peace then came – no, not peace, but the end of war came – no, not the end of war, but the end of legitimate, civilized war, and for three years you dallied with us. One day we were treated as though we were in the Union, and as though we had legitimate State governments in operation; another day we were treated as though we were out of the Union, and our State governments were rebellious usurpations. It was a regular game of “Now you see it and now you don’t.” We were in the Union for all purposes of oppression; we were out of it for all purposes of protection.
Finally, seeing that we still remained Democratic, the Union was dissolved by act of Congress and we were formally legislated outside in order that you might bring us into the Union again in such a way as to guarantee us a Republican form of government – that is, that we should vote the Republican ticket; and you cited Article IV, Section 4, of the Constitution as your authority to do this.
You deposed our State governments and ejected from office every official, from Governor to township constable, and remitted us to a State of chaos in which the only light of human authority for the regulation of human affairs and the control of human passions was that which gleamed from the polished point of the soldier’s bayonet.
You disenfranchised at least ten per cent of our citizens, embracing the wisest, best and most experienced. You enfranchised our slaves, the lowest and most ignorant; and you placed over them as leaders a class of men who have attained the highest positions of infamy known to modern ages.
In order to preserve the semblance of consent, conventions were called to form new [State] constitutions, the delegates to which were chosen by this new and unheard of constituency, The military counted the votes, often at the headquarters in distant States, the general in command determining the election and qualifications of the delegates.
Perhaps the annals of the [Anglo-Saxon] race from which we spring, with all its various branches spread throughout the world, cannot furnish such a parody upon the principles of free government based upon the consent of the governed.
[So constituted], the new governments went to work, and in the short space of four years they plundered those eleven Southern States to the extent of $262,000,000; that is to say, they took all that we had that was amenable to larceny, and they would have taken more, doubtless, but for the same reason that the weather could not get any colder in Minnesota, as described by a returned emigrant from that State.
And now recalling these facts and a hundred more which I cannot now name, can any candid man wonder that we became solid? Can he wonder that old Whigs and Democrats, Union men and secessionists, should unite in a desperate effort to throw off the dominion of a party which had inflicted these things upon them? And your military interference, your abuse, and your denunciations continue unto this day.
The Negro alone is your friend and very few whites . . . [though] One by one the Northern adventurers who led them have packed their carpet-bags and silently stolen back to the slums of Northern society whence they originated, and the lonely Republican makes his solitary lair in some custom-house or post-office or revenue headquarters. The broad, free, bright world outside of these retreats in all the South is Democratic, thanks to you, the Republican party of the North.”
(Life of Zebulon B. Vance, Clement Dowd, Observer Printing and Publishing House, 1897, pp. 226-229)