Southern History Series: Sen. Zebulon Vance on the Federal Elections Bill of 1890

Gov. Zebulon Vance of North Carolina was a thorn in the side of Confederate President Jefferson Davis throughout the War Between the States. Vance County, NC is named in his honor.

Like President Jefferson Davis and Vice President Alexander Stephens, Gov. Zebulon Vance was imprisoned in Washington after the Confederate government of North Carolina was violently overthrown by General William Tecumsah Sherman in May 1865. In 1876, North Carolina was redeemed from Republican rule when Vance was again reelected as governor.

Vance later became a U.S. Senator and opposed the Federal Elections Bill of 1890 in Congress which was the last gasp of federal civil rights legislation until the Civil Rights Act of 1957:

“The policy of subjecting the intelligence and property of the South to the control of ignorance and poverty is not a new one. It has been tried. To the candid man who really desires the welfare of his country, the experiment resulted in a failure so disastrous that he would never desire to see it repeated.

The carpetbag rulers were infinitely worse than the Negroes. The evil propensities of the one were directed by intelligence, and the ignorance of the other became simply the instrument by which the purposes of the white leaders were carried out. The material and moral ruin wrought under this infernal conjunction of ignorance and intelligent vice was far greater than that inflicted by war. The very foundations of public virtue were undermined, and the seeds of hatred were thickly sown between the races.

In this great struggle to escape Negro rule and restore our State governments to the control of those who made them, and whose ancestors had established their principles in their blood, we had both the aid and the sympathy of Northern Democrats everywhere. We had neither from you.

You did not even stand by with indifference. You upheld the party of misrule and ignorance in every way you could. You kept the Army of the United States in the South to overcome the struggling whites as long as you dared. You sorrowed when the plundering of our people was stopped, and you received to your arms as martyrs the carpetbag fugitives expelled by the indignation of an outraged people.”

Vance appears to have a different recollection of the War Between the States and Reconstruction than Rainbow Confederates. He also doesn’t sound much like a classical liberal!

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1 Comment

  1. The last major reconstruction government in North Carolina was overthrown in 1898 by a White militia led by the “Little Colonel” Alfred Waddell.

    Waddell felt that the Blacks had tried to murder him, and he responded by buying a Gatling gun and leading his White militia in what’s claimed to be the only successful coup in American history.

    Thomas Dixon used Waddell as a model for the “Little Colonel” in his novel.

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