The victorious Republicans quickly realized in that their wartime political hegemony would disappear with Southern States again being equal partners in the Union. Hence, their disenfranchising of white voters and the enfranchisement of black freedmen – which ensured Grant’s election in 1868 with barely a 300,000 vote margin over Democrat Horatio Seymour. Carl Schurz (below) was a German revolutionary who found like minds in the North’s Republican party, helped swing German voters to Lincoln in 1860 and was rewarded with a generalship of German troops.
The Struggle for Domination
“The war was hardly over before the victors found out that it was easy to sit in Washington and proclaim peace by presidential decree or legislative enactment, but very difficult to establish peace in a country so recently torn apart by civil conflict. Despite the fact that General Grant thought that the South would accept the verdict of the battlefield, there were others who believed that the South was irreconcilable.
Carl Schurz returned from a tour of the region with the verdict that the South had submitted only because it saw no alternative. He was alarmed at having found “no expression of hearty attachment to the great republic.” To his horror, treason was not odious in the South. Each section was thoroughly convinced that the other was wicked and, under the circumstances, not to be trusted to do the right thing.
The Republicans, having the upper hand even in the early years of Reconstruction, were determined to strengthen their position and perpetuate their power. They had an effective propaganda for their purposes. They could remind the country that it was the South which had fought treasonably to destroy the Union; and that the Republican party had saved the nation from complete ruin at the hands of the Democrats, North and South.
The vulnerable position of the Democrats was summed up by Schurz: “There is no heavier burden for a political party to bear, than to have appeared unpatriotic in war.”
Many Republicans, whatever their altruistic motives, were moved to adopt the cause of the Negro almost solely by considerations of political expediency and strategy. It would have been unnatural for them not to have strengthened their party by enfranchising the Negroes and enlisting them as loyal voters. It would have been equally unnatural for the Democrats, especially the Southern wing, to have abided this clever political maneuver.”
(From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans, Franklin/Moss, Alfred A. Knopf, 1988, excerpts pp. 224-225)