Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Different Century, A Different View of Party Politics

It seems as if a large part of the political class would not agree with this today.

"The sober American judgment must obtain in the South as elsewhere in the Republic, that the only distinctions upon which parties can be safely organized and in harmony with our institutions are differences of opinion relative to principles and policies of government, and that differences of religion, nationality, or race can neither with safety nor propriety be permitted for a moment to enter into the party contests of the day."* 
- Sen. Blanche K. Bruce, 1879

U.S. Senator Blanche Kelso Bruce

These are the words of Senator Blanche (a.k.a., Branch) Kelso Bruce, first African American to serve a full term in the United States Senate, representing Mississippi, 1875-1881. Bruce was also the first African American nominated by a major party for vice-president of the United States in Chicago during the summer of 1880. He was defeated in this contest by Chester Alan Arthur, who became president a year later when President James Garfield died in office. Before his death by assassination, Garfield had appointed Bruce as Register of the Treasury, an office in which he served under Garfield, Arthur, and, again, under William McKinley. He died in this office in 1898. Though he represented Mississippi, where he lived for many years, he was born in 1841 in Farmville, Virginia, which is just down the road, so to speak, from where I write this.

Senator Bruce was born a slave yet rose to one of the highest offices in the United States government and was once considered for its second-highest office.

*Quoted in "A Negro Senator," by G. David Houston,  The Journal of Negro History, vol. 7, No. 3 (July 1922), p. 250. (Congressional Record, Forty-sixth Congress, 1st Session, p. 2104.) 

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