Resurrecting the democracy: the Democratic party during the Civil War and Reconstruction, 1860–1884

Page, Alexander Robert (2017) Resurrecting the democracy: the Democratic party during the Civil War and Reconstruction, 1860–1884. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis places the Democratic party at the centre of the Reconstruction narrative and investigates the transformation of the antebellum Democracy into its postbellum form. In doing so, it addresses the relative scarcity of scholarship on the postwar Democrats, and provides an original contribution to knowledge by (a) explaining how the party survived the Civil War and (b) providing a comprehensive analysis of an extended process of internal conflict over the Democracy’s future. This research concludes that while the Civil War caused a crisis in partisanship that lasted until the mid-1870s, it was Democrats’ underlying devotion to their party, and flexibility over party principle that allowed the Democracy to survive and reestablish itself as a strong national party.
Rather than extensively investigating state-level or grassroots politics, this thesis focuses on the party’s national leadership. It finds that public memories of the party’s wartime course constituted the most significant barrier to rebuilding the Democratic national coalition. Following an overview of the fractures exposed by civil war, the extent of these splits is assessed through an investigation of sectional reconciliation during Presidential and Radical Reconstruction. The analysis then shifts to explore competing visions of the party’s future during the late 1860s and early 1870s when public confidence in the Democracy hit its lowest point. While the early years of Reconstruction opened the party to the possibility of disintegration, by the mid-1870s Democrats had begun to adopt a stronger national party organisation. Through a coherent national strategy that turned national politics away from issues of race and loyalty and towards those of economic development and political reform, while simultaneously appealing to the party’s history, national Democratic leaders restored public confidence in the Democracy, silenced advocates of the creation of a new national party, and propelled the party back to power in 1884.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > American Studies
Subjects: E History America > E151 United States (General) > E0171 History (General) > E0183 Political history
E History America > E151 United States (General) > E0456 Civil War period, 1861-1865
E History America > E151 United States (General) > E0660 Late nineteenth century, 1865-1900
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 10 Oct 2017 10:56
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2017 10:56
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/70466

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