War Democrats, Peace Democrats, Copperheads, and Republicans

February 1, 1863/2013
Volume 4, Issue 5 (121 Issues Since 15 October 2010)

War Democrats, Peace Democrats, Copperheads, and Republicans

February 1, 1863. “As partisan opposition to Lincoln mounted during the winter of 1862-63,” writes historian Robert Bonner, “two distinct wings of the Democratic party emerged. War Democrats supported the vigorous military assault upon the Confederacy while protesting Republican encroachments on white supremacy and decentralized government. Their self-consciously conservative slogan — ‘The Union as it was, the Constitution as it is’ — emphasized the party’s pledge to restore the antebellum Republic. The Peace Democrats were far more controversial in demanding a cease-fire and in welcoming open-ended compromises that many assumed would lead to two separate American republics. At times this faction even suggested that Confederate independence was preferable to a Union governed by what they called the Lincoln tyranny. Such rhetoric gave Republicans an opening, which they used to link these so-called Copperheads to the entire Democratic Party. The onus of treason associated with notoriously antiwar figures like Clement Vallandigham of Ohio and New Yorkers Ben and Fernando Wood gradually discredited all of Lincoln’s political opponents.

“The stance of Peace Democrats outraged many soldiers, [indeed] . . . . soldiers were coming to consider all Democrats — whether identified with the peace or the war factions — as traitors to the cause they defended with their lives.”

"The Copperhead Party -- in favor of a vigorous prosecution of peace!" A political cartoon from Harpers Weekly, published February 28, 1823.

“The Copperhead Party — in favor of a vigorous prosecution of peace!” A political cartoon from Harpers Weekly, published February 28, 1823.

– Submitted by Peter A. Gilbert, Vermont Humanities Council Executive Director

SOURCE

Robert E. Bonner, The Soldier’s Pen, 124-25.

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Filed under Civil War Book of Days: 1863

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