Democratic Party during the Johnson Administration
The Democratic Party faced an unusual situation following the Civil War. The northern wing of the party, which won 45% of the vote in the 1864 election, faced the opportunity of forming a new winning coalition with the South. There, the immediate post-war parties were the National Union Party (supporters of President Johnson) and the Conservatives (advocates of returning to the antebellum political system). Republicans in Congress realized the precarious situation, and they refused to seat the new southern delegations.
Under Radical Reconstruction, the political situation in the South became more fluid. Most of the indigenous politicians in the National Union Party bolted to the Conservative Party, affiliated with the national Democratic Party. The Party began 1865 in opposition to the policies of the Administration, but as the year progressed, the Democrats began to give the President more support. The Democrats recognized that southern states needed to reject the doctrine of secession, but the party wanted to minimize other requirements. The North, fearing that the gains of the Civil War would be lost through legislation, returned a larger and more radical Republican majority to Congress in the elections of 1866-1867. The National Union Party ceased to exist, and the Democrats become the supporters of President Johnson’s Reconstruction policy.
Unlike the Republican field, the Democratic field of pre