RISE OF DEMOCRATIC RADICALISM IN THE SOUTH
After the Presidential election of 1872 no one could be found who questioned the wisdom or practicability of the Congressional Plan of Reconstruction, or who looked for its overthrow, change or modification. After that election the situation was accepted by everyone in perfect good faith. No one could be found in any party or either race who was bold enough to express the opinion that the Congressional Plan of Reconstruction was a mistake, or that negro suffrage was a failure. To the contrary it was admitted by all that the wisdom of both had been fully tested and clearly vindicated. It will not be denied even now by those who will take the time to make a careful examination of the situation, that no other plan could have been devised or adopted that could have saved to the country the fruits of the victory that had been won on the field of battle. The adoption of any other plan would have resulted in the accomplishment of nothing but the mere physical abolition of slavery and a denial of the right of a State to withdraw from the Union. These would have been mere abstract propositions, with no authority vested in the National Government for their enforcement. The war for the Union would have been practically a failure. The South would have gained and secured substantially everything for which it contended except the establishment of an independent government. The black man, therefore, was the savior of his country, not only on the field of battle, but after the smoke of battle had cleared away.
Notwithstanding the general acceptance of this plan after the Presidential election of 1872, we find that in the fall of 1874 there was a complete and radical change in the situation,—a change both sudden and unexpected. It came, as it were, in the twinkling of an eye. It was like a clap of thunder from a clear sky. It was the State and Congressional elections of that year.
In the elections of 1872 nearly every State in the Union went Republican. In the State and Congressional elections of 1874 the result was the reverse of what it was two years before,—nearly every State going Democratic. Democrats were surprised, Republicans were dumbfounded. Such a result had not been anticipated by anyone. Even the State of Massachusetts, the birthplace of abolitionism, the cradle of American liberty, elected a Democratic Governor. The Democrats had a majority in the National House of Representatives that was about equal to that which the Republicans had elected two years before. Such veteran Republican leaders in the United States Senate as Chandler, of Michigan, Windom, of Minnesota, and Carpenter, of Wisconsin, were retired from the Senate. When the returns were all in it was developed that the Democrats did not have a clear majority on joint ballot in the Michigan Legislature, but the margin between the two