William Mahone

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William Mahone (1826-1895), Confederate soldier, political leader in Virginia. A business promoter he became president of Norfolk-Petersburg Railroad (1861); he served as a Confederate major general (1864), defended Petersburg. After the war led the Readjuster Party, which advocated scaling down the state debt. As a U.S. Senator (1881-1887) he caucused with the Republican Party.

Degler (1974) argues that a bi-racial politics has been at once a hope and a nightmare for the white South. Although largely forgotten, the most successful instance of political cooperation between blacks and whites was the Readjuster movement in Virginia during the 1880s under Mahone, It aimed at breaking the Bourbon Democrats hold on Virginia politics. The Readjusters, led by Mahone, called a biracial convention in 1879. Within three years they captured the legislature, the governorship, the State's two U.S. Senate seats, and the majority of its Congressional seats. They scaled down the State debt ("Readjusted" it), expanded social services, improved schools for both races, and abolished public whippings, the poll tax, and dueling. The reform accomplishments were praised in both North and South, but from 1883 on the racial issue was used effectively to defeat the Readjusters. In 1884 they joined the Republicans. Until his death in 1895 Mahone supported biracial politics, although his view toward blacks was always paternalistic.


See also

Further reading

  • Dailey, Jane. Before Jim Crow: The Politics of Race in Postemancipation Virginia. (2000). 278 pp.
  • Degler, carl. The other South: Southern dissenters in the nineteenth century (1974)
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