Phantom Radicals: Texas Republicans in
PHILIP J. AVILLO, JR.*
COMMENTING ON THE ELECTION OF TEXAS'S ONLY REPUBLICAN GOV-
ernor in December, 1869, the Austin Texas State Gazette grieved,
"We fear the radicals . . . have carried the State. . . . The deepest dyed
combination of red and black Radicalism to be found in their ranks" shall
rule Texas. For the Galveston News, Republican success at the polls that
December signaled an even greater impending doom. The recent election
results, the News moaned, can mean only "the political prostration of worth,
patriotism, intelligence, property and virtue before as vile a collection of
ignorance, vice, servility, barbarism, and cruelty" as was ever witnessed by
The reaction of these Texas newspapers to Republican ascendancy was
of course not unusual among southern whites during Reconstruction, and
historians, those sympathetic with southern Reconstruction Republicans, as
well as those hostile to them, have largely concurred in acknowledging the
existence of radicalism in the readmitted southern states. Indeed, historians
as diverse in their conclusions as William A. Dunning and Kenneth M.
Stampp regard the southern Republicans as committed to far-reaching social
and political change.2
Students of Texas history conform to this pattern and embrace the Ga-
*Philip J. Avillo, Jr., is a graduate student at the University of Arizona.
'Texas State Gazette (Austin), December io, 1869; Galveston Tri-Weekly News, Jan-
uary I, 1870. For similar press reactions, see also Dallas Herald (weekly), December 18,
25, 1869, February 2o, 1870, and Galveston Tri-Weekly News, December 24, 1869.
2William Archibald Dunning, Reconstruction: Political and Economic, 1865-1867 (re-
print; New York, 1962), 10o9-123; Kenneth M. Stampp, The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-
1877 (New York, 1965), 12-13. Two monographs which have attempted to illustrate the
absence of radicalism during Reconstruction but which nevertheless contend that profound
social change occurred in the South are Joel Williamson, After Slavery: The Negro in
South Carolina during Reconstruction, 1861-1877 (Chapel Hill, 1965), 63, 416-417;
and Joe M. Richardson, The Negro in the Reconstruction of Florida, 1865-1877 (Talla-
hassee, 1965), 223-224. In two important studies, however, Otto H. Olsen and C. Vann
Woodward have persuasively challenged the existence of radicalism among southern white
Republicans during Reconstruction and dismissed the cheerful conclusion that significant
social reform took place during this period. Otto H. Olsen, "Reconsidering the Scalawags,"
Civil War History, XII (December, 1966), 304-320; C. Vann Woodward, "Seeds of
Failure in Radical Race Policy," in Harold M. Hyman (ed.), New Frontiers of the Amer-
ican Reconstruction (Urbana, 1966), 125-147.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117148/. Accessed July 22, 2014.