Newspaper Clippings Politics and Other Things.
After first siding with President Lincoln and the Moderate Republicans for a more lenient Reconstruction policy,
as governor of Maine
Chamberlain advocated firmer Reconstruction measures. His speeches after the Compromise of 1877,
however, might leave one thinking that he opposed Reconstruction. Here it is seen that in 1872 Chamberlain still
stood by the Radicals in supporting Grant and Reconstruction over the Liberal Republican Horace Greeley.
Reconstruction would come to an end nonetheless, in 1871 Congress removed the Iron Clad Oath over Grant's veto
allowing ex-Confederates to take an active role in politics once more. By 1872 the Supreme Court case United States v. Cruikshank
overturned federal charges against white Democrats who massacred a militia of freedmen, stating that the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies only to state action,
not to actions by individual citizens. It concluded that the plaintiffs had to rely on state courts for protection.
To make matters worse the Democrats had regained a majority in the House making further civil rights legislation unlikely.
The Compromise of 1877 effectively ended reconstruction in the South. The Republicans
agreed to pull troops out of the South in exchange for Rutherford B. Hayes being awarded the disputed presidential election.
With the Constitution barring them from further action, and the only way left to enforce Reconstruction being war,
Chamberlain now supported President Hayes
and his Southern Strategy. Described as follows,
"First, he wanted to eliminate acts of violence committed against Blacks in the name of politics. Secondly, Hayes believed that the "best white southerners" would adhere to the three amendments relating to Black rights.
Thirdly, he advocated education and federal aid to bolster the southern economy. Lastly, he endorsed strong, honest local self-government in the region. He believed that by making Black votes necessary for office,
white southerners would work vigorously to protect Black voters."1
Many of Chamberlain's speeches of this time reflect Hayes' plan and if looked at out of context will give the impression that
Chamberlain was opposed to Reconstruction when in fact he only opposed enforcing it after it could no longer be legally enforced.
In 1884 Liberal Republicans who were opposed to corruption and Blaine formed the "Independent Republican Committee"
in hopes of pressuring the party to choose another candidate for president. Chamberlain wrote a letter to Carl Schurz expressing regret that he could not attend
the meeting saying in part,
"I regret it much, for I fully sympathize with the feeling that it is absolutely necessary for the success of the Republican party that
their nominations should command the respect of sincere & thoughtful members of that party, who are not self-seekers but are looking
to the real interestes of the Country."2
When Blaine was nominated anyway many of these Liberal Republicans became Mugwumps, switching parties to support Democrat
Grover Cleveland and effectively giving him the election.
With so much friction between Blaine and Chamberlain no one had expected Chamberlain to back Blaine. This even lead to an erroneous report in the New York Times,
however, Chamberlain did not follow his Mugwump friends but stood by the Republican
party. He responded to the New York Times' assumptions,
"It probably grew out of the feeling on the part of some of the 'ring men' in the Republican party that they had abused
me so much that it would be more than human (or less) to expect me to support a party they expected to manage.
But I am a Republican and deem it the best course for me to stand by my party, in hopes that before long the best elements in it will be able to
prevail. I do not rebuke others with whom I sympathize on general grounds for taking a course different from mine;
but for me to abide quietly within the lines of the party seems the consistent and manly course."