Research Why did political life continue much as normal in the Union states, in contrast with the Confederacy?

Brit123

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Why did political life continue much as normal in the Union states, in contrast with the Confederacy?

Really interested if anyone has any ideas- I find it quite confusing. Currently I've reached the conclusion that it was because there was an erosion of the 2 party system in the 1850s (only one party left in South?) and there was a perceived need for a united front during the emergencies of secession and war.
 

James N.

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I believe you've largely answered your own question. Also, so very many then-current, former, and prospective politicians were actively involved directly in the war effort, especially in the beginning, it would be at least a while before any dissent would began to appear. Even once it did, it seems to have been more in the form of editorializing and other criticism rather than real political activity involving campaigning, voting, etc. One exception however was the election of President Davis and Vice President Stephens from their "provisional" status to the full six-year terms provided for in the Confederate Constitution, but that was largely a mere rubber-stamp formality that early in the war before many cracks had begun to appear.

Welcome to the forums!
 
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jackt62

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The northern Democratic Party remained a consistent thorn in the side of Republicans and those who supported the cause of Union and emancipation. With varying degrees, the Democrats ranged from the so-called "peace" or "Copperhead" faction (advocating a negotiated end to the war and likely southern independence), to the so-called "war" Democrats who supported a military solution to the conflict. Given the significant numbers in those camps, an outspoken press on all sides, and the frequency of elections, it's no wonder that "normal" political turmoil continued unabated in the north. In contrast, the formation of the Confederacy was based on a passionate belief in the total legitimacy of its position, and which under its one party rule, was less tolerant of those who did not display that same ardor. Which is why many southern Unionists were unable or unwilling to express themselves publicly or lacked the means to do so given the absence of any opposition party.
 

mofederal

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In theory political parties in the CSA were not recognized. Most Southerners, to include Confederate President Jefferson Davis, opposed political parties, considering them to be a corruption of the principles of a republican government. In reality many members of the Confederate Congress were former Southern Democrats, Constitutional Unionists or Whigs. Supposedly there were no political parties, but Confederate politicians often divided over the issue of having a strong central government. The Nationalists, including President Jefferson Davis, favored the government having broad powers, especially in war time. The Libertarians, led by Alexander Stephens, favored a limited government, reserving most powers, especially including war powers to the individual states.
 

Zack

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I haven't read it but I was googling about this topic recently and this book popped up. Perhaps another poster can comment its quality:

https://uncpress.org/book/9780807858189/the-confederate-republic/

"Although much has been written about the ways in which Confederate politics affected the course of the Civil War, George Rable is the first historian to investigate Confederate political culture in its own right. Focusing on the assumptions, values, and beliefs that formed the foundation of Confederate political ideology, Rable reveals how southerners attempted to purify the political process and avoid what they saw as the evils of parties and partisanship.


According to Rable, secession marked the beginning of a revolution against politics, in which the Confederacy's founding fathers saw themselves as the true heirs of the American Revolution. Nevertheless, factionalism developed as the war dragged on, with Confederate nationalists emphasizing political unity and support for President Jefferson Davis's administration and libertarian dissenters warning of the dangers of a centralized Confederate government. Both sides claimed to be the legitimate defenders of a genuine southern republicanism and of Confederate nationalism, and the conflict between them carried over from the strictly political sphere to matters of military strategy, civil religion, and education. Rable concludes that despite the war's outcome, the Confederacy's antipolitical legacy had a profound impact on southern politics."
 

wausaubob

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The US political parties wanted the game of politics to continue. And there was not much point of winning the US Civil War if the US lost the process of free elections in gaining the victory. The tumult of opinion and open dissent continued.
The Confederates wanted to end the game and set up a government run by committee. South Carolina was on the extreme end of the spectrum, but the owners of the large plantations had no intention of having their status diminished by democratic institutions.
And the second factor, though maybe more important than any other, was that the politicians mostly likely to dissent, from the five borders areas, New Orleans and Tennessee, were experiencing their territory being returned to US loyalty fairly quickly. The dissent left the Confederacy, and returned to loyal status.
 

NetoWann

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Reconstruction era violence and corruption wasn't actually limited to the South and many journalists and other intellectuals feared that the era presaged a general "Mexicanization" of politics, where violence would be the norm and dictatorship inevitable, combine with nebulously legal methods used by certain political actors prior and after the war, and really neither side had politics continue much as normal.
 

James N.

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Reconstruction era violence and corruption wasn't actually limited to the South and many journalists and other intellectuals feared that the era presaged a general "Mexicanization" of politics, where violence would be the norm and dictatorship inevitable, combine with nebulously legal methods used by certain political actors prior and after the war, and really neither side had politics continue much as normal.
Sorry, but discussions of contemporary politics aren't allowed in the Foru - Oh, wait - you're describing conditions 150 years ago!

Welcome to the forums anyway.
 
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Bruce Vail

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Welcome to CWT! I think you'll always find some knowledgeable people here ready to kick around the kind of ideas offered in OP question.

I, for one, question your basic premise. How can political life in the North be described as 'normal' when the country was consumed in a bloody civil war that threatened the very existence of the nation? A brand new political party -- the Republicans -- had seized control of the federal government and was rewriting federal policy practically on a daily basis. Unprecedented conscription and tax laws were introduced. The conscription law led directly to the NY Draft Riots, which remains record-setting in US history for the violence of a domestic uprising. None of this was normal in the political history of the country.
 

wausaubob

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Welcome to CWT! I think you'll always find some knowledgeable people here ready to kick around the kind of ideas offered in OP question.

I, for one, question your basic premise. How can political life in the North be described as 'normal' when the country was consumed in a bloody civil war that threatened the very existence of the nation? A brand new political party -- the Republicans -- had seized control of the federal government and was rewriting federal policy practically on a daily basis. Unprecedented conscription and tax laws were introduced. The conscription law led directly to the NY Draft Riots, which remains record-setting in US history for the violence of a domestic uprising. None of this was normal in the political history of the country.
Elections continued and there was even a Presidential Election. And the Democrats even recruited a reasonable alternative to Lincoln. Lincoln's own party even contemplated splitting and supporting John Fremont. All of which was normal for the 19th century.
 

OpnCoronet

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Basically, the two sections had two different kinds of govt. The North had an established gov't and political institutions that had been in operation for almost a century. The citizens and political leaders were completely familiar with its operations.

As already noted by others on this thread, the South had what amounted to a Revolutionary gov't whose operations were being set in place even as they were forced to make unwanted accommodation for massive military invasions from all points of the compass.


P.S. it did knot help that modifying the Constitution of the Old Union, of for and by the people as prescribed by the DoI, was not a good fit for a new govt dedicated to the preservation of slavery.
 
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