Will the next be a Radical Congress?

September 13, 1866


After weeks of speculation, it becomes all but certain that the Radical Republicans will maintain if not grow their lead in congress. Suggesting the only way to slow the radical reconstruction policies is for the southerners and the northern Conservatives to unite. Says the Republican control is a defeat of the democratic ideals the country was founded on.


Will the next be a Radical Congress? This is an interesting question. Judging by the results of the elections just held in Vermont and Maine, no one could answer otherwise than affirmatively. But this is not the worst view of the case; for even with large gains in New York and Pennsylvania--of which there is really very little prospect--Congress would remain in the hands of the Radical party. Forney's Philadelphia paper has figured out the result to suit itself precisely. According to that journal, which we suppose puts down the figures correctly, the House of Representatives at the adjournment of its last session contained 147 Radicals and 45 Democrats. Add all the southern members to the list of Democrats, and the total stands: Radicals, 147; Conservatives, 95. But leaving out the southern members, the Radicals may lose in the fall elections more members than the Democrats hope to gain, and yet have a majority, which is all they want to enable them to keep the southern representatives out of Congress. But the Radicals fear that the President will recognize the southern members and the northern Democratic members as the constitutional Congress in case these two parties combined constitute a larger body than the Radical members alone. In order to bring about this state of things, the Democrats must gain members enough in the northern States to overbalance all the Radical members from the South. Even supposing that the President would ever consent to take the course suggested--which he could only be induced to take by an attempt to impeach him--we see at present no reason to hope that the Conservatives will gain enough members in the fall elections to put such a weapon of defence in his hands. We shall, perhaps, gain some members in Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky--of course we shall in Kentucky--but the gains in the northern States will be few and far between if present indications may be taken as reliable. As to the Senate, there is no reason whatever to hope for any change for the better. On the contrary, it promises to be more intensely Radical in the next Congress than in the present. These considerations prove the wisdom of John C. Calhoun, who was always so anxious to protect the rights of minorities. But they show a state of things which even his great mind never could have imagined as one that could ever possibly exist. The majority of the people of the United States are, under the workings of our system of government, reduced to a condition in which they are powerless to protect themselves from wrongs constantly committed upon them by the minority. There is no doubt in the world that a majority of the voters in the Union would if they had a chance decide that the President's policy should be pursued. Add the votes in the South to the Conservative strength in the North, and there would be a large majority in favor of this policy. But to make this strength tell, is impossible. The Conservatives are outvoted in the North, and the President's friends at the South are not allowed to speak at all. When Mr. Johnson was in Congress, he proposed to change the Constitution so as to allow the people to vote for President without the intervention of electors, and to let the candidate be President who should receive the largest number of votes in the entire Union. While this plan would be utterly destructive to State rights, it would just now operate beautifully; for the unanimous vote of the southern people if added to the Conservative vote in the North would carry the election for President easily. There is something wrong in the system of government which thus allows a majority of the people to be trampled down and kept under foot.
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Nat Berry




“Will the next be a Radical Congress?,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed March 29, 2023, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/322.