As I was completing the series on the life and times of Wade Hampton III, that will conclude in the next issue of The Times Examiner, after a great deal of very interesting research and reading, I was struck by the great wisdom, dedication and honor of this larger than life historical figure. How desperately we need men of his caliber in positions of authority in our state and nation today.
He was one of the wealthiest men in South Carolina when the state seceded from the union. He did not favor secession, but when his state was attacked by Union forces, he organized, clothed, equipped, armed, paid and fed a regimental size military unit. He had no formal military training, but his wisdom, honor and natural leadership ability resulted in him becoming one of the most effective Major Generals in the Confederate Army.
He was one of the largest slave owners in the Southeast, but he had a reputation for providing them with the same level of food, medical care and other essentials as was available to his own family. When he became a candidate for governor, he received the votes of many former slaves, especially in the Upstate, although they were under death threats or other penalties if they did not vote for Republican candidates. The former slaves were also promised 40 acres and a mule if they remained loyal to the Radical Republican carpetbag government and voted Republican.
When elected Governor of South Carolina, Hampton promised to treat all South Carolinians fairly. He appointed Republicans and qualified former slaves to his cabinet and administration. The State Constitution put in place during his term as Governor guaranteed equal rights to all citizens of the state.
As U. S. Senator, Hampton was able to block a Republican sponsored bill that would have mandated federal supervision of state elections if 500 voters signed a petition requesting intervention. Hampton had seen enough federal tampering with state elections during Congressional Reconstruction and in his 1876 election.
Almost a century later, President Lyndon Johnson and the Democrats had taken up the role once held by Radical Republicans. Johnson was able to do precisely what Hampton feared and had blocked. Johnson signed into law a requirement that the U. S. Justice Department would have overriding authority over election matters in all states that voted for Barry Goldwater in 1964.
Election district boundaries must be adjusted to conform to census results every 10 years. This summer the South Carolina Legislature redrew the congressional district and other lines in compliance with state and federal laws. The governor signed and approved the new congressional district lines, but they are currently being reviewed by President Obama’s Justice Department.
It is predictable that Attorney General Holder will override the decision of the legislature and Gov. Haley and redraw the lines or have them redrawn by a federal judge in Washington, D. C.
Local newspaper accounts indicate that African-Americans are currently collecting signatures in Greenville County to protest the placement of the line separating the Third and Fourth Congressional Districts. The Lyndon Law requires that district lines be drawn to favor black candidates and voters.
The purpose of the law blocked by Wade Hampton in the late 1800s was to use former slaves to help Republicans retain power in the South. Lyndon Johnson’s motivation was to use the descendants of those slaves to give political advantage to liberal Democrats, and at the same time punish the states that voted against Johnson in the 1964 General Election using “civil rights” as justification for his actions.
One senator of Wade Hampton’s calibre may have been able to block Lyndon Johnson’s folly that has resulted in federal bureaucrats overriding the decisions of governors for almost half a century. The vindictive, politically motivated law is unconstitutional, but no one has had the courage to successfully challenge it in the current politically correct climate.
How many South Carolinians today would take the Wade Hampton pledge for the good of their state and country?
“I will sacrifice everything but principle and honor.”