The Wade-Davis Manifesto

August 5, 1864 – Senator Benjamin F. Wade of Ohio and Representative Henry W. Davis of Maryland bitterly denounced President Abraham Lincoln’s veto of a bill designed to give Congress the authority to impose a harsh reconstruction program on the Confederate states.

Sen. B.F. Wade and Rep. H.W. Davis | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Sen. B.F. Wade and Rep. H.W. Davis | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

In July 1864, Lincoln had rejected the Wade-Davis Reconstruction Bill via a pocket veto. Lincoln justified this by asserting that a punitive congressional plan would undermine the restoration of some Confederate states already begun under Lincoln’s presidential plan. This enraged members of his party known as the Radical Republicans, which included the bill’s sponsors, Wade and Davis. They responded to Lincoln by writing a provocative op-ed in the influential New York Tribune that became known as the “Wade-Davis Manifesto.”[1]

Wade and Davis argued that “it is their right and duty to check the encroachments of the Executive on the authority of Congress, and to require it to confine itself to its proper sphere.” They asserted that “a more studied outrage on the legislative authority of the people has never been perpetrated,” and declared that “the authority of Congress is paramount and must be respected.” In addition, Wade and Davis demanded that Lincoln “understand that our support is of a cause and not of a man,” implying that Lincoln had vetoed the bill for political reasons at the expense of the general welfare.[2]

This internal conflict between fellow Republicans delighted the pro-Democratic press as the presidential election approached. The New York World called the manifesto “a blow between the eyes which will daze the President,” and the New York Herald cited the message as proof that Lincoln was “an egregious failure” who should “retire from the position to which, in an evil hour, he was exalted.”[3]

The Wade-Davis Manifesto threatened to split the Republican Party just months before the election between Radicals backing Wade and Davis, and conservatives backing Lincoln. However, most pro-Republican newspapers ultimately condemned the manifesto’s spiteful tone and voiced support for Lincoln, and the Radicals reluctantly fell back into the party line.[4]

—-

[1] Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 10887-98; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), Kindle Locations 9705-9715; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 535

[2] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 9705-9725; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 640; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 551-52

[3] Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 11155; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 640

[4] Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 11155; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 640

Advertisements

Tagged: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: