“A Steady Opposition to Every Evolution of Radicalism”: Western Conservatism in Civil War Era Indiana
AuthorWiley, Andrew Wayne
Committee MemberAnderson, Joseph
Spangler, Jewel L.
Maizlish, Stephen E.
Goldstein, Joshua D.
Civil War Era
United States History
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractThis dissertation examines conservatives in Indiana politics from the 1820s to the 1870s. During the Civil War Era, northern conservatives helped push Abraham Lincoln into the White House in 1860, and then forced an end to Reconstruction in 1877. While many historians have examined their motivations, they often lump conservatives in the northeast states with those in the West. Due to the state’s population makeup, conservatives never lost their political punch in Indiana, making the state an ideal location to study western conservatives. Since they were so influential, every political party appealed to them. A broad examination of conservatives in Indiana between the 1820s and the 1870s reveals one key difference between western and northeastern conservatives. Although they shared a common reverence for the Union with other conservatives, those in the west were hardline racists devoted to white supremacy. They supported Indian removal while helping pass laws that prohibited African American migration. Once the Whig Party collapsed in the early 1850s conservatives, fearful of disunion, backed Democrats in 1856 and staved off a Republican victory. When the South threatened to push slavery westward, threatening white supremacy in the new western territories, western conservatives sided with Republicans and helped elect Abraham Lincoln. When Lincoln turned the Civil War into a war for emancipation, conservatives drifted towards the Democrats, forcing Republicans to water down their emancipationist rhetoric. Once the war ended, conservatives once again threatened to leave the Republican Party over African American citizenship and suffrage. Republicans explained Reconstruction as a strictly southern phenomenon that left white supremacy in the North intact. After Republicans passed the 15th Amendment and ensured African American suffrage, Indiana conservatives started leaving the party. Their racism forced Republicans to make concessions that ultimately led to the end of Reconstruction. Although they revered the Union as much as other conservatives, they wanted a Union with white supremacy.
CitationWiley, A. W. (2019). “A Steady Opposition to Every Evolution of Radicalism”: Western Conservatism in Civil War Era Indiana (Unpublished doctoral thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.
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