Chicanery and Intimidation in the 1869 Texas
HELD IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE NATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION ACTS,
the 1869 Texas gubernatorial election resulted in a narrow victory
for Edmund J. Davis, the Radical Republican candidate, over Andrew J.
Hamilton, the moderate Republican candidate who possessed Democra-
tic support. The four days of balloting, which was limited by military au-
thorities to only county seats from November 30 through December 3,
produced an avalanche of allegations of fraud from all across the state.
More than 120o years later there remain many unanswered questions sur-
rounding the Davis-Hamilton contest. Foremost among the unresolved
issues of interest to historians is the extent to which voting irregularities,
especially intimidation of black voters by the anti-Davis forces or chi-
canery on the part of the Radicals or U.S. military authorities, might
have shaped the outcome.
Interpretations of the controversial 1869 election, which Davis won by
fewer than 800 votes out of nearly 80,000 cast, span the spectrum from
the discredited Dunning school, on one end, to revisionist and post-revi-
sionists writings, on the other. The newer historiography holds that ab-
stentions by old-guard Democrats, rather than their disfranchisement
per se, determined the outcome to a far greater extent than duplicity or
fraud, and that only small percentages of blacks were probably kept
from casting ballots for the Radical ticket by some variety of intimida-
tion. Surprisingly, no attempt has been made to draw out evidence of
possible fraud by examining counties that reported gubernatorial elec-
tion returns out of line with what might have been expected, given the
racial mix of their voter registrations or racial divisions of their votes cast
simultaneously for and against a newly drafted state constitution.'
* Dale Baum is associate professor of history at Texas A&M University. He is the author of The
Cval War Party System: The Case of Massachusetts, r848-1876 (1984) and is currently working on
the Civil War era in Texas.
For a discussion of the most recent literature on Texas pohtics during the reconstruction pe-
riod, see Barry A. Crouch, "'Unmanacling' Texas Reconstruction: A Twenty-Year Perspective,"
Southwestern Histonrcal Quarterly, XCIII (Jan , 199o), 282-292 For modern interpretations of the
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117154/. Accessed March 7, 2014.