Ohio History Journal

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George Hunt Pendleton, The Ohio Idea

and Political Continuity in Reconstruction





The severe defeat of the Democrats in the 1866 election in Ohio and across

the country left some of the party's political positions meaningless. With a

Republican majority in Congress and Reconstruction issues under its control,

the Democratic Party pinned its future on the ideas of a politician in the

throes of resurrecting a political career. George Hunt Pendleton, a leading

Democrat from Ohio, had made a name for himself during the Civil War as a

Peace Democrat representing southwestern Ohio in Congress. He had run

with General George McClellan in 1864 for the vice-presidency, but with the

war won and the Republicans waving the bloody shirt, Pendleton seemed des-

tined for obscurity. Following the war, the Democrats were adrift in terms of

policies, issues and leaders. They had supported President Johnson, but his

growing unpopularity and unwillingness to cooperate with them promised

years of campaign defeats. The Democrats continued to show a lack of imag-

ination in 1866 when they campaigned in opposition to Congressional

Reconstruction. 1

Pendleton initially was no different from other Democrats; he followed the

same obstructionist policies and lost his 1866 bid for Congress.  But

Pendleton realized this approach, however much sense it made in the short

run, was an expedient that failed to rebuild the southern Democracy, did not

restore the prewar party's sectional alignments, and lent credence to

Republican attacks that the Democrats had flirted with treason during the war.


Thomas S. Mach is an Associate Professor of History at Mount Vernon Nazarene

College in Mount Vernon, Ohio. The author would like to thank Professor Jerome

Mushkat for his steadfast encouragement and helpful comments in the completion

of this article.


1. Eric L. McKitrick, Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction (Chicago, 1960),

274-325; Robert D. Sawrey, Dubious Victor: The Reconstruction Debate in Ohio

(Lexington, Ky., 1992), 59-67; W. R. Brock, An American Crisis: Congress and

Reconstruction, 1865-1867 (London, 1963), 105-22; Floyd O. Rittenhouse,

"George Hunt Pendleton: With Special Reference to His Congressional Career"

(Master's thesis, The Ohio State University, 1932), 53-55; Clifford H. Moore,

"Ohio in National Politics, 1865-1896," Ohio Archaeological and Historical

Society Publications, 37 (April, 1928), 236-40.