Slavery is a dark stain on the history of America. But not all people supported it. There was one group who specifically supported slavery— they were the Democrats.
MYTH: Republicans supported slavery.
REALITY: The opposite is true. Republicans were against slavery, while Democrats supported it.
Almost all of the slaveholders were Democrats, all of the Confederate States voted Democrat, all of the pro-slavery legislation was pushed by Democrats, and all of the most prominent Confederate figures were Democrats.
Democrats were the party of slavery.
(Read below for more information)
To understand the Democrat’s involvement in slavery and the Civil War, it’s important to first cover the events that led up to the war.
In 1854, a pro-slavery bill called the Kansas–Nebraska Act threatened the peace between the Northern and Southern States.
The bill created the possibility that slavery could be extended into areas where it was previously banned. After the passage of the bill, tensions rose between the anti-slavery Northern States and the pro-slavery Southern States.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act was presented by Democrat senator Stephen A. Douglas. Democrat President Franklin Pierce supported the bill and signed it into law. Following the presidency of Pierce, Pennsylvania Democrat, James Buchanan, became president. Buchanan was pro-slavery and advanced the policies of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
Anti-slavery Northerners were outraged over the Kansas-Nebraska Act because it violated the Missouri Compromise. The Missouri Compromise had been implemented decades before and helped balance territory between the Slave States and the Free States. This was done to help establish peace between the North and the South.
In response to the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, an anti-slavery party was created. The name of that party was the “Republican Party.”
Republicans became the Party of freedom, and the Democrats were the Party of slavery.
Before the Civil War, a majority of slave owners in Congress were Democrats. According to an analysis by the Washington Post, “By the eve of the Civil War, there were almost equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans in the 36th Congress, which met in Washington from 1859 to 1861. The Democrats, including those who belonged to Democratic splinter groups, counted nearly 100 slaveholders among their ranks… The Republicans, which had emerged as the party of abolition, had just one slaveholder.”
Democrat James Henry Hammond, the United States Senator from South Carolina, was one of the most vocal supporters of slavery before the Civil War. He once said, “I endorse without reserve the much-abused sentiment of Governor McDuffie, that ‘slavery is the corner-stone of our republican edifice;’ while I repudiate, as ridiculously absurd, that much-lauded but nowhere accredited dogma of Mr. Jefferson that ‘all men are born equal.’”
By 1855, the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives.
In 1856, two Democrat politicians, Preston Brooks and Lawrence Keitt attacked Republican Charles Sumner with a walking cane after Sumner gave an anti-slavery speech at the United States Senate chamber.
In 1857, one of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions ever made— was the Dred Scott decision. The Dred Scott decision was when the Supreme Court unconstitutionally decided that American citizenship and rights did not apply to those of black African descent. Democrat and Chief Justice, Roger Taney, said that the Supreme Court ruled that people of African descent “are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States”.
The 1860 election was between Democrat John Cabell Breckinridge, Republican Abraham Lincoln, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, and Constitutional Union John Bell.
Abraham Lincoln and John Bell were against the expansion of slavery, while John Cabell Breckinridge and Stephen A. Douglas supported it.
John Cabell Breckinridge believed that slavery was a “wholly local and domestic” issue. He didn’t believe Congress had the power to regulate or ban it. He also believed that slaves were property, therefore it was their constitutional right to own them. Later, when the Civil War began, Breckinridge became a general for the Confederate army. In 1865, he was appointed to the Confederate Secretary of War position.
Democrat Stephen A. Douglas believed that the Constitution supported slavery. He believed that as long as the vast majority of the people in a territory supported slavery, then it should be legal. Douglas profited from a slave plantation in Mississippi that his wife inherited from her father.
In the Presidential debates, Douglas criticized Lincoln’s opposition to the Dred Scott decision.
Douglas said, “Mr. Lincoln goes for a warfare upon the Supreme Court of the United States, because of their judicial decision in the Dred Scott case. I yield obedience to the decisions in that court—to the final determination of the highest judicial tribunal known to our constitution.”
Lincoln went on to win the 1860 election. Unlike all the prior presidents-elect before him, Lincoln did not carry a single slave state. All the slave States voted Democrat.
After the election of Lincoln, Democrats in the South led the charge to secede from the Union and form the Confederate States. The United States Congress, led by the Republicans, rejected the secession. Democrat Andrew Johnson was the only senator from a Confederate State that also rejected the secession.
On April 12, 1861, troops from the Confederate army attacked the Union outpost, Fort Sumter, near Charleston, South Carolina. The Confederate troops were led by General P.G.T. Beauregard, a lifelong Democrat. This bombardment of the fort led to Union forces surrendering. This event marked the beginning of the Civil War.
Thus began the Civil War.
LIST OF PROMINENT CONFEDERATE DEMOCRATS
Jefferson Davis— He was the president of the Confederate States of America. He was the former Democratic U.S. senator from Mississippi.
Alexander Hamilton Stephens— Vice president of the Confederate States of America. He served as a Democratic congressman and governor of Georgia.
Joseph Wheeler— A commander in the Confederate Army. He was the former Democratic congressman from Alabama.
Nathan Bedford Forrest— He was a prominent Confederate general during the Civil War. In 1858, he ran as a Democrat for alderman of Memphis city. He was elected and served two consecutive terms. After the war, he became the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
General Stonewall Jackson— He was a major general for the Confederacy. He was a Democrat who voted for Democrat John C. Breckinridge, during the 1860 presidential election.
John Cabell Breckinridge— He was a prominent Confederate general during the Civil War. He was the Vice President to Democrat President, James Buchanan. He was one of Abraham Lincoln’s political opponents during the 1860 election.
James Zachariah George— Member of the Confederacy and a former Democratic U.S. senator from Mississippi.
Wade Hampton— Lieutenant general for the Confederate army. He was the Democratic governor of South Carolina.
Edward Douglass White— He was a member of the Confederate Army. He was the former Louisiana Democratic senator.
John E. Kenna— He was a member of the Confederate Army. He was the former Democratic congressman and U.S. senator from West Virginia.
Zebulon Baird Vance— He was a member of the Confederate Army. He was the former Democratic governor of North Carolina.
One of the objections that modern day Democrats make is that the parties switched after the 1964 Civil Rights Act. What they are talking about is the ‘Southern Strategy.’
Democrat Trevor Noah said, “A lot of people like to skip over the fact that when it comes to race relations, historically, Republicans and Democrats switched positions.”
This is false, the parties never switched, not did they switch on race relations. It’s not that Republicans switched, it’s that Democrats stopped being racist against blacks.
Read my article “The Southern Strategy Myth.” I use academic research, election data, surveys, and election speeches to debunk the Southern Strategy.
Read below to see Civil Rights accomplishments by Republicans after the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
REPUBLICAN CIVIL RIGHTS ACCOMPLISHMENTS AFTER 1964
Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Republicans were responsible for just about every civil rights action on record. So what about after the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Here’s a list of the civil rights achievements by Republicans after 1964—
- Enforcing one of America’s first affirmative action programs (the Philadelphia Plan)
- Desegregating most of the schools (Kotlowski, D.)
- Instituted an executive order mandating equal opportunity in federal employment (Executive Order 11478).
- Officially recognizing black history month
- Creating Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- Signing Voting Rights Act Extension
- Appointing African Americans to high ranking positions
- Appointing the second African American Supreme Court Justice (Clarence Thomas)
- Designating August 12th National Civil Rights Day
- Signing the Hate Crime Statistics Act
- Signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1991
P.G.T. Beauregard. New World Encyclopedia . (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2022, from https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/P.G.T._Beauregard
Julie Weil, J. Z., Blanco, A., & Dominguez , L. (2022, January 10). More than 1,800 congressmen once enslaved black people. this is who they were, and how they shaped the nation. The Washington Post. Retrieved October 25, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/interactive/2022/congress-slaveowners-names-list/
Keating, D. (n.d). Buchanan, James. Civil War on the Western Border: The Missouri-Kansas Conflict, 1854-1865. The Kansas City Public Library. Accessed Tuesday, October 25, 2022 – 12:36 at https://civilwaronthewesternborder.org/encyclopedia/buchanan-james
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Ballasy, N. (2020, June 13). Nine of 11 statues of Confederate leaders Pelosi wants removed from Capitol were Democrats. Just The News. Retrieved October 25, 2022, from https://justthenews.com/government/congress/9-out-11-statues-confederate-leaders-pelosi-wants-removed-capitol-were
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Black, C. (2020, July 17). Stephen Douglas and the ‘right side’ of history. The Chicago Reporter. Retrieved October 25, 2022, from https://www.chicagoreporter.com/stephen-douglas-and-the-right-side-of-history/
Shultz, G. P. (2003, April 30). How a Republican Desegregated the South’s Schools. Hoover Institution. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://www.hoover.org/research/how-republican-desegregated-souths-schools
Kotlowski, D. J. (2011, October 14). Nixon’s southern strategy revisited: Journal of policy history. Cambridge Core. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-policy-history/article/abs/nixons-southern-strategy-revisited/700408B092EAAF23A4980969E1E40CE0
Nixon’s Civil Rights – Dean J. Kotlowski. Harvard University Press. (n.d.). Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674006232
Buchanan , P. (2014, July 4). Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy’ and a Liberal Big Lie . Real Clear Politics . Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/07/04/nixons_southern_strategy_and_a_liberal_big_lie_123211.html
Schoen, D. E. (2016, May 16). Commentary: Nixon’s legacy in a new light. The Inquirer. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://www.inquirer.com/philly/opinion/20160515_Commentary__The_legacy_of_Richard_Nixon.html
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