Republicans Preaching Racial Hatred
Congressional radicals were well-aware that black freedmen voting with their white neighbors toward mutual interests in the South would not elect Republicans, and the race card was established along with the
bloody shirt as a means to maintain Republican political hegemony. The racial divisiveness of today is a lasting residue of the terrorist Union League, and the worst possible political instruction the black man received along with his ballot. Without the vote of the freedmen in the conquered South, Grant would have lost to Horatio Seymour and the Union League possibly dismantled.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Republicans Preaching Racial Hatred:
“Scalawags were Southerners willing to espouse Republicanism for reasons of opportunism. When the pro-Negro policies of the carpetbaggers caused the scalawags to desert Republicanism, Northern leaders, conscious of the power of numbers, to an ever greater degree relied upon pure Negro support.
The principal agency of the carpetbaggers was the Union or Loyal League. Initially it was composed almost entirely of white unionists with patriotic rather than political aims. As the
and high-sounding platitudes. In its heyday the Union League was said to have more than 200,000 members.
Ceremony, talk about freedom and equal rights, sententious references to the Declaration of Independence, accompanied by the clanging of chains, the burning of weird lights, and prayers and songs – all had their
compelling effect upon the Negroes’ emotions and thoughts. They were repeatedly reminded that their interests were eternally at war with those of Southern whites, and that their freedom demanded the continued
supremacy of the Republican party.
As a consequence of these teachings, the Union League “voted the Negroes like “herds of senseless cattle.” One member described it as the ‘place we learn the law.” When asked why he voted Republican, another member replied “I can’t read, and I can’t write…We go by instructions. We don’t’ know nothing much.” During the presidential campaign of 1868, the Union League of North Carolina declared that if Grant were not
elected, the Negroes would be remanded to slavery; if elected, they would have farms, mules, and hold public office.
One fact is of fundamental importance in understanding the course of radical Reconstruction: the Negroes were aroused to political consciousness not of their own accord but by outside forces. This revolution in Southern behavior, unlike the more lasting political revolutions of history, was not a reflection of accomplishments in other
fields. Attainment of political equality by the Negroes, in other words, was not attended by social and economic gains, possibly not even signifying a general demand for these advantages.
Such a lack of support not only meant that the radical political experiment could be destroyed almost as easily as it was created, but that participation of the Negro in politics would be erratic and irresponsible. Even if it had not been that way, it would have been so regarded, because the Negroes did not preface their attempt to win
political equality with the attainment of respect in other fields of social endeavor.”
(A History of the South, Francis Butler Simkins, Alfred A. Knopf, 1953,