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The Doom of Reconstruction:

The Liberal Republicans in the Civil War Era

Andrew L. Slap

Publication Year: 2007

In the Election of 1872 the conflict between President U. S. Grant and Horace Greeley has been typically understood as a battle for the soul of the ruling Republican Party. In this innovative study, Andrew Slap arguesforcefully that the campaign was more than a narrow struggle between Party elites and a class-based radical reform movement. The election, he demonstrates, had broad consequences: in their opposition to widespread Federal corruption, Greeley Republicans unintentionally doomed Reconstruction of any kind, even as they lost the election. Based on close readings of newspapers, party documents, and other primary sources, Slap confronts one of the major questions in American political history: How, and why, did Reconstruction come to an end? His focus on the unintended consequences of Liberal Republican politics is a provocative contribution to this important debate.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xxvi

The liberal republican movement doomed Reconstruction in 1872.* Given the background of the men who started the movement this is extremely ironic, for in the previous decade many of them had led efforts to reconstruct the South and help African Americans. For example, early in 1862 Massachusetts economist...

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1. Rehearsal in Missouri for the Liberal Republican Movement, 1865–1870

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pp. 1-24

On December 15, 1870, Carl Schurz of Missouri rose before the U.S. Senate to ‘‘submit some observations upon the political movements in Missouri, which seem to have attracted unusual attention and have acquired more than local interest.’’ The country was focused on Missouri...

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2. The Liberal Republican Conception of Party,1848–1872

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pp. 25-50

Years before the national phase of the liberal republican movement began, the Springfield Republican analyzed the future of the Republican Party. The paper considered political parties to be temporary coalitions organized for reform, but always vulnerable to corruption. ‘‘There are times...

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3. Preserving the Republic while Defeating the Slave Power, 1848–1865

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pp. 51-72

For two decades, the men who would create the liberal republican movement were in the vanguard of the antislavery fight. As noted in chapter 2, many of them had belonged to the short-lived Free Soil Party, including Free Soil vice-presidential candidate Charles Francis Adams, and they had...

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4. The Liberal Republican Dilemma over Reconstruction, 1865–1868

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pp. 73-89

After enduring four years of war the liberal republicans, like most Northerners, were ready for peace and had no plans for a lengthy reconstruction of the South. Their objective during the Civil War had been to maintain republican government, and this remained their paramount goal during...

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5. Legacies of the Civil War Threaten the Republic,1865–1872

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pp. 90-107

Five days after Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, with other Confederate armies still in the field, the Cincinnati Commercial’s lead editorials were headlined ‘‘Reducing the War Establishment’’ and ‘‘Hints Toward Economy.’’ The newspaper...

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6. Grant and the Republic,1868–1872

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pp. 108-125

In their long struggle to preserve republican government, the liberal republicans initially embraced Ulysses S. Grant as a savior. From the late 1840s onward their classical republican ideology had led them to fight against various perceived forms of corruption and tyranny threatening the nation’s...

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7. The National Phase of the Liberal Republican Movement, 1870–1872

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pp. 126-163

The proceedings of the Liberal Republican Convention in Cincinnati upset the original liberal republicans. Carl Schurz wrote, ‘‘I cannot think of the results of the Cincinnati Convention without a pang,’’ and Edward Atkinson began a letter by simply stating, ‘‘I have just returned from...

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8. The Experience of a Third Party in the Nineteenth Century

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pp. 164-198

Why did the Liberal Republican Party lose the election of 1872? Most historians have explained the Republican landslide victory as a predictable function of Grant’s popularity. Reducing the election to mere personalities, however, misses the significance of the 1872 campaign...

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9. The Lasting Effect of 1872 Campaign Rhetoric

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pp. 199-221

After rejoicing that ‘‘the elections in North Carolina, Vermont and Maine have decided the Greeley campaign two months in advance,’’ Boston Postmaster William Burt lamented that ‘‘if they would only be content to accept the result it would save us much later, and much disagreeable...

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10. The Liberal Republicans Try Again, 1872–1876

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pp. 222-237

Despite losing control of their movement and enduring an invective-filled campaign, most liberal republicans remained in surprisingly good spirits after Grant’s reelection in 1872. In postmortem correspondence, Schurz acknowledged to Horace White, ‘‘We designed it to be a...

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pp. 238-240

The liberal republicans had been involved in the ‘‘Southern question’’ for three decades by the time Hayes became president in 1877. After helping to start the Free Soil Party in 1848, many of them had then helped organize the Republican Party in the 1850s. The goal of the liberal republicans in both parties was to end...


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pp. 241-278


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pp. 279-294


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pp. 295-306

Further Reading

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E-ISBN-13: 9780823247738
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823227099
Print-ISBN-10: 082322709X

Page Count: 306
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 647932088
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Doom of Reconstruction:

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Subject Headings

  • Presidents -- United States -- Election -- 1872.
  • Grant, Ulysses S. (Ulysses Simpson), 1822-1885.
  • Greeley, Horace, 1811-1872.
  • Liberal Republican Party -- History.
  • Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877).
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1849-1861.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1861-1865.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1865-1877.
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