The Period of Transition
October 22, 1869
Though Reconstruction has seemed slow to those in the South, it has moved precisely as fast as it needed to. There will be a political transition but the people are willing to endure whatever it takes for peace.
The period of political transition which commenced immediately after the war is progressing, not with as much rapidity as the people (at least of the South) could wish, but probably with as much speed as is safe in matters of such magnitude as are those involved. It is impossible that the policy of a war party, and the measures engendered by war, can be suited to a condition of peace. The Republican party, under the guidance of the spirit and passions of war, has pursued a policy utterly inconsistent with true Republicanism. Instead of the liberality of Republicanism and its justice, which claims That just government derives Its power from the consent of the governed, we have had arbitrary power exerted over a large part of the Union through military satraps. To adapt itself to peace, and its name, the Republican party must abandon its measures, recognize the supremacy of the popular will, secure the freedom of the citizen, and leave the people to choose their own rulers. Either this change must come over the Republican party, or that party must, as war parties generally have done, give place to a new political organization on a new basis. The northern Democratic party, the antagonist of the Republican, is embarrassed, in a great degree, by the war issues and its conduct during and since the war. It has made a great many blunders. Its prominent men are entangled with inconsistencies that seriously damage their party. 31 any of them uttered opinions and sentiments before the war that made their participation in it a great inconsistency. And while, when the war came, perhaps the Democratic party furnished not only its greatest commanders, but its main strength in men, they have been betrayed into assaults upon the management of the war and the Government that enabled the Republican party to usurp all the _clat of the victory over the South, while the South, so far as the zeal with which they conducted the war is concerned, finds no cause to consider them more forbearing than the Republicans. The Democrats have made us sufferers by endeavoring to make reconstruction odious, and joining the ultra Radicals with that view, while they have bitterly opposed universal suffrage at the North, which was fixed upon us chiefly through their agency. Thus they are involved at every turn by inconsistencies, that with all their strength of voters, have continually subjected them to defeat since the war. It is evident that both the great parties at the North must undergo great changes. The Republicans must abandon their war policy, their war rancours and malignities, and adapt themselves to the name they bear, or be annihilated by public opinion in due time. The Democrats must cut loose from their old issues, and repudiate their old leaders, who are involved in gross inconsistencies and desperate follies, or they can never gain a triumph. They must become practical, bring forward new and strong men, fit for the theatre in these times and entirely free from the prejudices and passions of the past. It is plain that circumstances are now coercing changes in the political world that will entirely remodel parties. Old issues and policies are dead, and parties will not be properly organized until the old political hacks are set aside along with those issues. The South is a looker-on, ready to take that side which is most just, most practical, and whose policy is best calculated to promote the local prosperity and contentment of the country, and in that way the peace, harmony, and power of the nation. Should General Grant take a proper survey of the field, and inaugurate, in accordance with the liberal opinions he has so often expressed, a policy calculated to do this--to impart equality and justice to all sections--to promote industry and restore confidence every-where--if he does this, and firmly holds the reins of Government in his own hands, he will place his Administration upon a rock, and speedily solve the present political complications. He will thus secure to himself a second term. If ho does not, the political transition through which we are passing will find another solution ; but whatever it be it will bring peace and order to the country, and the rights and freedom of the citizen along with it.
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“The Period of Transition,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed May 18, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1526.