Political hyperbole is nothing new. Although we often hear people decry the lack of civility in many of today’s campaigns, is it really that different than at certain times in the past? After all, the Jefferson-Adams election in 1800 is considered one of the nastiest in history.
And writers certainly didn’t pull any punches in the mid-19th century, either. Democratic Banner publisher Lecky Harper would heap on the invective, especially in an election period. And yet Harper reportedly maintained good relations with many, but certainly not all, local Republicans.
An excellent example of one of Harper’s rants against “abolitionized Republicans” appears in the Aug. 4, 1862, Democratic Banner. With Congressional elections under way, Harper stepped up his insistence that only Democrats truly supported the Constitution and the Union and that abolitionists and Republicans were the real threat to the Constitution and were the cause of the war, not slavery.
In this piece, he wrote that the Republican Party was the “meanest and most unprincipled party that ever existed in this country. It is a selfish, sectional, fanatical, bigoted, corrupt, unconstitutional party and it has proved itself wholly incompetent to administer this government ... No man can be an Abolitionist and at the same time a true and loyal American citizen. No Abolitionist can be a friend of his country and its Government. A class of men whose organization is based upon a hatred of the Union and a disregard of the Constitution and the laws of the land, can never be real friends of such Union, Constitution and laws. We therefore hold that it is the moral duty of the Abolitionized Republicans to abandon their unpatriotic, sectional party, and go for their country, and nothing but their country. To make some atonement for past political sins, they should hereafter vote only for Union-loving, Constitutional Democrats, who have always been for their country, in all its length and breadth. The Union, with all its glorious memories, can only be restored by its true, original, unfaltering friends — the Democracy. This fact is now so plain that ‘a wayfaring man, though a fool,’ may understand it.”
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