Religion and the Radical Republican Movement, 1860-1870

Religion and the Radical Republican Movement, 1860-1870

Victor B. Howard
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 312
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    Religion and the Radical Republican Movement, 1860-1870
    Book Description:

    Kentucky occupied an unusual position with regard to slavery during the Civil War as well as after. Since the state never seceded, the emancipation proclamation did not free the majority of Kentucky's slaves; in fact, Kentucky and Delaware were the only two states where legal slavery still existed when the thirteenth amendment was adopted by Congress. Despite its unique position, no historian before has attempted to tell the experience of blacks in the Commonwealth during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

    Victor B. Howard'sBlack Liberation in Kentuckyfills this void in the history of slavery and emancipation. In doing so, however, he does not just chronicle the experiences of black Kentucky, because as he notes in his introduction, "such a work would distort the past as much as a book concerned solely with white people." Beginning with an overview of the situation before the war, Howard examines reactions to the emancipation proclamation and how the writ was executed in Kentucky. He also explores the role the army played, both during the war as freed black enlisted and after the war as former slaves transitioned to freedom.

    The situation for former slaves in Kentucky was just as precarious as in other southern states, and Howard documents the challenges they faced from keeping families together to finding work. He also documents the early fights for civil rights in the state, detailing battles over the right to testify in court, black suffrage, and access to education. AsBlack Liberation in Kentuckyshows, Kentucky's slaves fought for their freedoms and rights from the beginning, refusing to continue in bondage and proving themselves accomplished actors destined to play a critical role in Civil War and Reconstruction.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6144-0
    Subjects: Political Science, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    This book seeks to examine the influence of the churches in shaping the course of the Civil War and the extent to which the religious community conditioned the character and course of Reconstruction. The clergy and the Protestant churches played a significant role in molding and supporting Radical Reconstruction. The Northern Protestant church was the conscience of the Republican party and was recognized as the mainstay of the radical program. Henry Wilson, a Congregational layman, declared, during the war, that the Republican party “contained more … moral … worth than was ever embodied in any political organization in any land...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Moral Inevitability and Military Necessity
    (pp. 7-21)

    The election of 1860 came at a time when the nation had endured long months of almost unbearable tension. The American people had scarcely recovered from the economic panic of 1857 when they were deeply moved by a religious revival that roused emotions to a fever pitch and left many people with the feeling that the country was burdened with a grave national sin. The horrors of John Brown’s raid lingered in the thoughts, if not in the words, of the people. This was a dangerous time for a presidential election.¹

    The election campaign of 1860 took place in a...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Radical Christians and the Emancipation Proclamation
    (pp. 22-38)

    On December 3, 1861, Lincoln sent his first annual message to Congress. He proposed that money be appropriated to establish a colony where forfeited slaves would be sent along with free blacks who chose to be colonized. “In considering the policy to be adopted for suppressing the insurrection, I have been anxious and careful that the inevitable conflict for this purpose shall not degenerate into a violent and remorseless revolutionary struggle,” he explained, “I have … thought it proper to keep the integrity of the union prominent as the primary object of the contest on our part, leaving all questions...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Election of 1862
    (pp. 39-51)

    After the Confiscation Act of July 1862 had passed, the sentiments of the radicals changed considerably. An antislavery citizen wrote to Wade the following week that the Radical party had an opportunity, first, to do “justice to a poor oppressed and down trodden” people and, second, to win “the gratitude and support of voters.”¹ Medill also saw that confiscation and emancipation measures would become a political issue when they were adopted. “We can make ten times as strong a fight to uphold a measure once passed as to advocate it before it is a law.” He urged Trumbull to pass...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Rise Up O Man of God!
    (pp. 52-67)

    The Emancipation Proclamation ushered in an economic and political revolution. The most radical Christians wanted to inaugurate a social revolution as well. The antislavery Presbyterian divine John Rankin rejoiced that the Proclamation had ended the system of slavery as Heaven had ordained; he lamented that it was not broad enough to cover the whole field of oppression. Theodore Tilton informed the readers of theIndependentthat the war against rebellion was “a struggle for social equality, for rights, for justice, for freedom.” A Congregational clergyman declared in a sermon to his parishioners in Westboro, Massachusetts, that slaves freed by the...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Election of 1864
    (pp. 68-89)

    The Union party was seriously divided during the winter of 1863-64. To a great extent the division was caused by the dissatisfaction of the Radical Republicans with the emancipation policy and the moderate program of Reconstruction of the Lincoln administration. Chase had submitted suggestions in writing to Lincoln when the Emancipation Proclamation was being considered. In November 1863, he suggested to Lincoln that the principles of emancipation should be incorporated in the constitutions of the reconstruction states. Chase added: “Permit one again most respectfully to urge on you the expediency and duty of making the Proclamation itself complete within the...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Churches and Presidential Reconstruction
    (pp. 90-105)

    While the Confederacy disintegrated during the winter of 1864-65, the unionists made new efforts to define the conditions of Reconstruction. Republican harmony in the wake of the 1864 election augured well for a compromise between the reconstruction plans of the president and those of Congress. The editor of theUniversalist Quarterly and General Reviewinformed his readers that he “solemnly believed that … if the factious spirit of the North can be held in subjection,” and if Lincoln could be given a fair chance to finish the work entrusted to his care, a just and humane Reconstruction would result. Writing...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN The Christian Opposition to Johnson
    (pp. 106-127)

    On December 4, 1865, when the Thirty-ninth Congress convened, almost all Republicans were united in a determination not to admit Southern representatives to Congress. Moderate Republicans agreed with radicals that the president’s policy did not go far enough to safeguard the fruits of the Union victory. Moderates, however, believed Northern voters would not support the radical policy of black suffrage as a minimum condition of restoration. In his message to Congress, Johnson restated his objection to prescribing suffrage qualification in the Southern states. Many moderates went along with him because they wanted to prevent a break with Johnson. Charles Sumner...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT The Fourteenth Amendment and the Election of 1866
    (pp. 128-145)

    Congress did not pass a reconstruction bill in 1866. The lawmakers preferred to campaign on the basis of the Fourteenth Amendment and to work out a reconstruction bill in the next session of Congress after the election. Stephen Field, a Supreme Court justice, believed that the Amendment would unite the Republican party. He wrote to Chase: “If the President withholds his approval he will sever all connection with the Union Party.” Warner Bateman informed Senator Sherman that he thought that all factions of the Republican party could unite on the Fourteenth Amendment. The radical Unitarian Attorney General James Speed wrote...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Impeachment and the Churches
    (pp. 146-164)

    The election of 1866 was a complete repudiation of presidential Reconstruction, and the Republican party won a decisive mandate in the congressional election. Since Republicans disagreed among themselves as to whether the Fourteenth Amendment constituted the final terms of Reconstruction and the Republican platform had proposed no program beyond the amendment, radicals were encouraged to speculate on what kind of measures Congress should put in place. Reverend Edward P. Tenney, a New England Congregationalist, sympathized with the views of most of the radical Christians when he wrote to Congressman Morrill during the canvass of the election in 1866, “But can...

  14. CHAPTER TEN Black Suffrage as a Moral Duty
    (pp. 165-181)

    Black suffrage was one of the most persistent issues during Reconstruction. The debate over suffrage began in 1864 and continued until 1870. To radical Christians, it was a moral and religious issue. The clergy and Christian laymen were in the forefront of the movement to secure the ballot for the freedmen and for all blacks. In April 1863, Gerrit Smith denounced the denial of the suffrage to black soldiers as “unreasonable and unrighteous—a high crime against both the soldiers and the country.” The controversy came prominently to public attention when Tilton delivered an address at the Cooper Institute in...

  15. CHAPTER ELEVEN The Black Suffrage Referenda of 1867
    (pp. 182-198)

    The enthusiasm that was shown by Christians for suffrage early in 1865 was checked after Negro suffrage had been voted down in five referenda in that year. Church members made up less than one-fourth of the population of the country in the 1860s, and the radical Christians could not persuade all the members to follow their lead in 1865. But radical Christians outside political circles still demanded the elimination of color restrictions. In January 1866, the newly organized National Equal Suffrage Association met and called for impartial suffrage. The association was addressed by Albert G. Riddle, a Radical Republican from...

  16. CHAPTER TWELVE The Fifteenth Amendment: A Mission Partially Completed
    (pp. 199-211)

    The presidential election of 1868 was of critical importance for the cause of black suffrage.¹ The defeat of the Republican party in 1867 on the issue of Negro suffrage had strengthened the position of the moderate Republicans and had rallied the party behind them in support of the presidential nomination of General Ulysses S. Grant and a moderate platform. The Christian radicals did not follow the majority of the party. In an editorial in theIndependent, Tilton asked the Christian radicals if they would abandon the Negro for the sake of winning the election. “Better let the [Republican] party be...

  17. Epilogue
    (pp. 212-215)

    The Northern churches contributed significantly to the radical movement in the Republican party because the antislavery factions gained control of most evangelical and liberal denominations and threw their weight on the side of the radical program. The churches made antislavery sentiment more respectable in Northern circles. Although anti-Southern sentiment added fuel to the Radical Republican cause, the moral influence of the radical Christians kept the Republican party from following the path of expediency. But the reform movement lost its momentum after the failure to remove Johnson and his retirement from office. Tilton was aware that the cause had reached its...

  18. Abbreviations
    (pp. 216-218)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 219-272)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 273-285)
  21. Index
    (pp. 286-297)