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South Carolina gubernatorial election, 1870

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 1870 South Carolina gubernatorial election was held on October 10, 1870 to select the governor of the state of South Carolina. Governor Robert Kingston Scott easily won reelection based entirely on the strength of the black vote in the state. The election was significant because it proved to the white conservatives of the state that political harmony between the white and black races was impossible and only through a straightout Democratic attempt would they be able to regain control of state government.[1]

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Union Reform Convention

The Radical Republican reforms and corrupt schemes initiated by Governor Scott after he assumed office in 1868 infuriated the white population of the state. However, the Democratic Party of the state was so thoroughly defeated in the previous gubernatorial election that the white conservatives realized the only way to seriously contest the election of 1870 was through the formation of a new political party. They organized a conference in Columbia on March 16 to formulate policies for the upcoming campaign. From the results of the previous election, the white conservatives concluded that running a white supremacist campaign in a state where the blacks were in the majority was futile and ineffective. The conference thus adopted two policies that would recognize blacks as equals to the whites and ensure their protection under the law. The only other resolution adopted was for the campaign to be waged against radicalism and in favor of good and honest government.[2]

Union Reform nomination for Governor
Candidate Votes %
Richard B. Carpenter 77.5 95.0
George S. Bryan 4 5.0

A nominating convention was held in Columbia on June 15 to select nominees for the state offices of Governor and Lieutenant Governor. In addition, a committee was formed at the convention to finalize the platform that the party would run on in the fall campaign. The chairman of the committee, Matthew Butler, submitted a paper with positions that would enforce the Fifteenth Amendment, uphold the existing laws enacted by the Radical Republicans, and to restore honesty and accountability in the state government. Furthermore, it was recommended that the new political party be called the Union Reform Party of South Carolina. Richard B. Carpenter, a carpetbagger judge from Charleston of questionable reputation,[3] won the nomination for Governor although he had never sought the position.

Republican Convention

The state Republicans renominated Governor Scott unanimously for a second two-year term at their state convention in Columbia on July 26 and July 27. Policies adopted on their platform included the continuation of support for civil rights and to request Congress to sell public lands in the South to the landless.


Republican support was mainly generated from the recently freed slaves who were coerced to continue their loyalty to the Republicans by the black militias and the Union League. The black militias drilled in the streets with bayonets fixed and threatened anyone who would dare cast a vote against the Republicans. Leaders of the Union League demagogued and urged black Republicans to violence against the white community.[1][4] Additionally, former Governor Orr advocated for white voters to support the Republican ticket because only through the Republican party would reform be achieved and many of their policies were favorable to the white people.

Even though most blacks faced grave threats if they opted to support the Union Reform ticket, many sincerely refused to even consider a candidate other than a Republican. One black told the white conservatives that "before the war you wouldn't let me join your party and now I don't choose to."[5] It was virtually impossible for the whites to convince the black voters to vote for their candidates because Republican leaders repeatedly pointed out that the whites only recognized black suffrage at the point of a bayonet.

Not only did the Union Reform party have a difficult task at attracting black voters, it also faced a disillusioned white electorate. The more extreme base of white voters simply were not willing to vote for any political party that allowed for blacks to participate as equals to the whites. Wade Hampton returned from his affairs in Mississippi to rally support for the Union Reform cause, but he encountered lukewarm support at best.[6] It was estimated that less than half of the white voters in the state bothered to cast a ballot in the election.[7]

Election results

The general election was held on October 10, 1870 and Robert Kingston Scott was reelected as governor of South Carolina. Turnout for the election was high as Radical Republicans sought to discourage any future attempts of an organized opposition by show of force at the polls. The devastating defeat suffered by the Union Reform Party led to its demise and it never again functioned as a political party. Moreover, the white men who had participated in the Union Reform effort felt that they had disrespected their honor through the association of blacks as their political equal.[5]

South Carolina Gubernatorial Election, 1870
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Robert Kingston Scott 85,071 62.3 -12.8
Union Reform Richard B. Carpenter 51,537 37.7 +37.7
No party Write-Ins 14 0.0 0.0
Majority 33,534 24.6 -25.6
Turnout 136,622
Republican hold
1870 South Carolina gubernatorial election map, by percentile by county.   65+% won by Scott   60%-64% won by Scott   55%-59% won by Scott   50%-54% won by Scott   50%-54% won by Carpenter   55%-59% won by Carpenter   60%-64% won by Carpenter
1870 South Carolina gubernatorial election map, by percentile by county.
  65+% won by Scott
  60%-64% won by Scott
  55%-59% won by Scott
  50%-54% won by Scott
  50%-54% won by Carpenter
  55%-59% won by Carpenter
  60%-64% won by Carpenter

See also


  1. ^ a b Jarrell, p35
  2. ^ Reynolds, p139
  3. ^ Williamson, p353
  4. ^ Reynolds, p145
  5. ^ a b Williamson, p355
  6. ^ Jarrell, p34
  7. ^ Williamson, p354


  • "Abstract from the Election Returns for 1870." Reports and Resolutions of the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina at the Regular Session, 1870-'71. Columbia, South Carolina: Republican Printing Company, 1871, p. 517.
  • Jarrell, Hampton M. (1969). Wade Hampton and the Negro. University of South Carolina Press. pp. 34–35. 
  • Reynolds, John S. (1969). Reconstruction in South Carolina. Negro University Press. pp. 139–150. ISBN 0-8371-1638-4. 
  • Williamson, Joel (1990). After Slavery: the Negro in South Carolina during Reconstruction, 1861-1877. University Press of New England. pp. 353–355. 
  • "The Election Farce". The Charleston Daily Courier. 10 November 1870. p. 2. 

External links

Preceded by
South Carolina gubernatorial elections Succeeded by
This page was last edited on 9 May 2017, at 19:22
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