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Why the Solid South Went Democrat

A little while back I posted an excerpt from Fourth of July speech in Houma, Louisiana, in 1911, about “warm receptions.”  That speech was just one of four given at that interesting occasion; another one was given by the Hon. Gabriel Montegut.  After a lengthy dissertation about Louisiana history, Montegut launched into an interesting subject: the aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction, both of which were still living memories in 1911.

With the “red state/blue state” dialectic, many have forgotten that, for nearly a century, the “Solid South” was solidly Democrat.  The Southern base was essential for the eventual triumph of Franklin Roosevelt and the Democrat domination of American politics in the mid-twentieth century.  How did this happen?  Montegut—a fervent Democrat as we’ll see—gives the reasoning that was fairly common amongst Southern Democrats for many years.

Note: long-time readers of this site will know that I take a jaundiced view of a lot of Southern mythology, as should be evident from my piece To Do The Work.   With that in mind, let’s join Mr. Montegut:

It is not necessary for a Southern gentleman to say much on the subject of social equality to be understood.  Referring to all the rot continually dinned in our ears by these marplots, I have but a few words to say, but I wish to say them in such a pointed manner that, “he who runs,” can read my views on the subject.  I only regret that, in my vocabulary, I cannot find words adequate to fully express my loathing and contempt for any man who calls himself a white man, whose heart beats seventy-two pulsations to the minute, who can unsheathe a dagger, draw a sword from its scabbard, and pull the trigger of a gun, and yet be so emasculated and wither in to such a pygmy as to fear for one moment, his inability to uphold the dignity of his own standard.

Grant, by the eternal Gods, Grant with his Federal bayonets, could not maintain the Negro domination in the South.  This remark brings us back to reconstruction days.  Our National quarrel was left to the arbitrament of war, and it was settled at Appomattox.  The South accepted the result in good faith, and if I refer to conditions immediately subsequent thereto, it is with neither desire nor intention to open up old sores, (no man of honour would do so,) but simply because some reference to that period, cannot be avoided in this discussion.  As I said before slavery was wrong, and emancipation was right.  But a great crime was committed by the dominant Republican party when they hastily vested millions of ignorant Negroes in the South, with the right to vote, instead of fixing a reasonable probation to prepare and qualify them for the exercise of that sacred right which Wm. M. Seward, the great Republican statesman, said was the crowning franchise of the American people.  They sowed the wind and the Nation has been reaping the whirlwind.  Abe Lincoln would have quarrelled with the entire Republican party, before he would have consented to so humiliate a brave and fallen foe.  That one political crime, committed I hope more in error for political expediency, and with less malice than we have often thought, was the cause of all our woes and tribulations.  It brought down upon the South a horde of unscrupulous carpetbaggers and adventurers, whose only motive was to enrich themselves upon our misfortunes.  They organised the Negroes, and at every election hurled that black mass of ignorance against our civilisation.  The saturnalia of corruption and misrule that existed in the South during those troublous times, no pen can describe.  A few conservative Republicans, including some coloured leaders who were just beginning to open their eyes, were themselves appalled.  Henry Clay Warmouth, the Republican governor of Louisiana, in the memorable Fusion Campaign of 1872, cried aloud and said that to save his life he could not stem the tide of corruption that had set in the Republican party in the State of Louisiana.

We stood our ills with patience and fortitude.  A day came when we were at the wall, and could go no further.  For years we talked and preached to, and argued with the Negro,–all to no avail.  He was loyal to Lincoln, loyal to the core.  He would listen to us patiently, and when we were through his only answer was, “Boss, Boss, ask me anything and I will do it for you,–but I can’t vote for you.”  He voted the Republican ticket because he thought he was paying them back for what he had received from them, his liberty,–and liberty is sweet.  He irritated us, God knows he did, but way down in our hearts we admired his loyalty.  We realised that he was a victim of a horde of white scoundrels and some miserable wretches among his own people.  He voted the Republican ticket because he thought he was voting for Lincoln, just as the mountaineers in Tennessee are still voting for “Old Hickory.”  He was loyal to Lincoln, just as he was loyal to us, when we went in the Confederate Army, and left mother and sister, wife and children in his charge.  We gave him up in despair only when we got to the wall.  The crisis came and we had it to meet.  It was then that the spirit of the Old South asserted itself, and Southern heroes and patriots rose to the demand of the occasion…They concluded that the only remedy left was to shoot to kill,–and they did so…They then called a halt.  For no consideration on earth, would they have stained their hands of honour of Louisiana with one drop of blood unnecessarily.  Any one of them could organise a revolution, but not one of them would lead a cowardly, murderous mob of lynchers.

The Negro quieted down in his ignorance.  The men of the Old South were above holding his responsible for the trouble.  They renewed their old attachment for him and redoubled their kindness.  Ah, those were troublous times…

The summary of this is simple: it was the backwash from Reconstruction, or the way the Republicans handled it after Lincoln’s assassination, that put a century of enmity between white Southerners and the Republican party, and a century of loyalty to the Democrat one.  That loyalty began to end in the 1960’s, just as the loyalty of re-enfranchised black voters entirely reversed itself to the Democrats.

And that is an unfortunate result of the whole quest for equality.  Martin Luther King enunciated a vision where all of God’s children could live and grow together, but instead of ending the apartheid the left took the easy way out and fell back on racial identity politics.  They simply inverted the division rather than getting rid of it.

And that inversion is the central reason why the Democrat party—the party of “equality”—is having such a hard time nominating a “black” man like Barack Obama for President.  Too many people have been conditioned to see themselves as the member of a group, and the person with the largest group gets to win, just as was the case in the reconstructed South.

Montegut goes on to an extended elegy about the Democrat party, a small part of which is as follows:

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty;–liberty is the offspring of Democracy, and the Democratic party is the sentinel of the Watch Tower of liberty and civilisation…

The Democratic party is indestructible, because it is the party of humanity and good will to all, and was created to vindicate, uphold and defend human rights and liberty; it is indestructible because it is the bulwark of constitutional liberty and is founded on God like principles.

Democracy and liberty, Democracy and Christianity, Democracy and chivalry walk hand in hand and as long as one lives the other cannot perish. Democracy was established on earth by Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour, and its immortal principle is embodied in his “Sermon on the Mount…”

In political economy the policy of the Democratic party has always been broad and firm, but never arbitrary, upholding always that the tax that each individual is bound to and must pay, as his contribution toward the support of his government, must be certain, but just and proportionate, and its assessment and manner of payment must be so fixed as to meet as nearly as possible the best convenience of the tax contributor…

Bet the secularists will run for cover at this one!


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