We’re happy to share the latest in a series of political cartoons from historian and illustrator Mark Wahlgren Summers, author of The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction.
On Thursdays, we feature a new cartoon—hand drawn by Summers—that offers a creative, satirical spin on Reconstruction history. Each cartoon is accompanied by brief commentary from the author/illustrator to help put things into context. These cartoons stimulate your brain, tickle your funny bone, and bring history to life in a whole new way.
Today’s feature: How the Lost Cause lost its way with Wade Hampton. (Click image for full size.)
“The Lost Cause Isn’t All That Lost. It Just Went into Redeemer Wade Hampton’s Whiskers and Couldn’t Find the Way Out.” A gray coat covered a multitude of causes. While Democrats and conservatives who “redeemed” the South from Republican rule in particular and democracy in general insisted that theirs would be a New South accepting the results of the Civil War, the kind of leaders they chose did not show it. South as well as North, voters chose figures with impeccable military records. In South Carolina, whites claimed to have elected onetime Confederate cavalryman Wade Hampton as governor in 1876 and with their paramilitaries, had him inaugurated. Hampton would graduate into the Senate a few years later. Hampton’s esteem outside the state did not rest on his war record, nor his reputation as a planter from a distinguished line of Wade Hamptons dating to Revolutionary War times. Rather, he was honored as a symbol of how far that Lost Cause had been tamed into something that northerners could find acceptable: love for the American flag and lip-service, at least, to fair treatment for African Americans. In Hampton’s case, it was more than lip-service: it was a liberalism that got him into serious political trouble with the rank and file. His willingness to appoint blacks to low-level government positions and preserve the basics of the school system, though, did not extend to protecting black voters’ political rights. Majority rule in South Carolina would have meant Republican control, and that outcome Hampton and his white-line critics alike were determined to prevent by whatever means of persuasion they could muster—homicidal ones included.
Mark Wahlgren Summers is professor of history at the University of Kentucky. He is author of The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction, A Dangerous Stir: Fear, Paranoia, and the Making of Reconstruction, and many other books.