Saturday, July 24, 2004

Winfield Scott Hancock - Someone You Should Know

Awhile back Dave Kopel & Co. wrote about the great American and Democrat Winfield Scott Hancock in the National Review Online.  He is a man you should know.  This hero of Gettysburg worked hard to reconcile with the south:
During Reconstruction, Hancock was appointed Governor of the 5th Military District, which encompassed Texas and Louisiana. Hancock refused to bully the defeated and vulnerable citizenry of Texas and Louisiana. His General Orders No. 40 of November 29, 1867, announced how he intended to govern. Predicting "they will crucify me," Hancock wrote:
[T]he great principles of American liberty are still the lawful inheritance of this people, and ever should be. The right of trial by jury, the habeas corpus, the liberty of the press, the freedom of speech, the natural rights of persons and the rights of property must be preserved. Free institutions, while they are essential to the prosperity and happiness of the people, always furnish the strongest inducements to peace and order.
General Orders No. 40 was soon published all over the country. Hancock's policy was joyfully received by the south as a sign that the war was finally over, and by Northerners who looked forward to reconciliation and the restoration of constitutional government.

But for the radical majority in Congress who believed that the southern states were conquered areas deserving punishment, Hancock's words were anathema.
Here's what his contemporaries said of him:
General William T. Sherman told an interviewer, "if you will sit down and write the best that can be put in the English language of General Hancock as a soldier and as a gentleman, I will sign it without hesitation." When Winfield Scott Hancock passed away in 1886, former President Hayes said succinctly, "he was through and through pure gold."
Democrat Hancock defended the election of Republican President Hayes in 1876, when Hayes beat Tilden in the most disputed (and probably the dirtiest) election in our history.

Garfield (also a principled man) beat Hancock by less than ten thousand votes (the totals are disputed) in 1880, and if Hancock had won New York (where he lost by 21033 votes) he would have won the election. According to Edmond the Libertarian, he only lost New York due to voting irregularities. Check this out: 79.4% of the eligible voters participated.

Update: Edmond the Libertarian has reminded me that I should reread carefully before I post. The last sentence was: "Hayes defeated Hancock for President in 1876, in what may be the most disputed election in American history." I corrected this egregious error and added more information above.

Update 2: I added "According to Edmond the Libertarian, he only lost New York due to voting irregularities." If Edmond finds a source to back up his memories, I'll be updating again. Thanks, Edmond!

Title Idea: Via Blackfive.