This week’s prompt for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is: Earliest. I decided to look at the earliest newspaper clippings for each of my surname lines. One caught my eye.
In 1868, my third great grandfather, Jeremiah Grant (1815-1892) was elected Probate Judge in Marlboro County, South Carolina. According to the article in the Charleston Daily News newspaper on 6 June 1868, everyone elected in Marlboro County that year was part of the Radical party. That’s what caught my eye. What was the Radical party?
The Radical party, short for Radical Republican Party was a faction of the Republican Party. The Radicals opposed President Lincoln’s Reconstruction Plan. They felt his plan was too lenient to the Confederate states.
The Radicals favored a ‘hard peace’ for the defeated South. Several motives are noted in various sources. Some blamed the South for starting the war and wanted to punish the Southerners. Some worried about the future of the former slaves and felt the federal government was responsible to ensure their rights as free men. Others saw it merely as a political tool to keep the Republican Party in power. There were other reasons, too.
The Radicals had control of Congress for a time, and they were able to pass the Civil Rights Bill in 1866. They also brought forward the 14th Amendment. Their power increased as a result of the 1866 congressional elections, and eventually the Radicals began impeachment proceedings against President Johnson in 1868. They failed at their effort to remove his from office, though.
There was a lot political chess playing going on during these years, as you can imagine. I won’t bore you with more details here. Try this Wikipedia page if you want to know more. It’s well-sourced and matches up with other sources I checked.
Back to Jeremiah
Jeremiah was known to be a Union sympathizer during the war, according to family tradition. I’ve often wondered if that was true, though. Yes, he was a signed witness on many people’s applications to the U.S. Southern Claims Commission but it is believed that many people put in claims even if they were Confederate supporters. I thought perhaps Jeremiah was one of those Confederate supporters until I looked a little deeper at him and the Radicals.
This is what I think now
Jeremiah thought slavery was wrong based on his spiritual convictions and was likely truly concerned about what would become of the freed slaves. On one of the 1877 claims he was a witness for, Jeremiah said he’d been a farmer and preacher of the gospel for the past 50 years. My grandmother, and countless others in the Grant line, knew Jeremiah to be a reverend. Also, Jeremiah never owned slaves, as far as I know, even though he was a farmer and at times owned much property.
Most of the other men in the Radical Party that were elected along with Jeremiah in Marlboro County in 1868 filed claims with the U.S. Southern Claims Commission, and Jeremiah was a witness for each of them. If these men were willing to publicly align themselves with the Radical Party and made claims with the claims commission, then it seems logical to conclude that they were indeed Union sympathizers…Jeremiah included.
Everything I’ve ever heard about Jeremiah is that he was an honorable man. I haven’t seen or read anything that makes me doubt that. Now I see him as a man of conviction who was willing to stand up for his neighbors in need as the bible says we are to do.
This is what I’ve concluded from my research for this blog post. If any of my Grant cousins have information that would lead to a different conclusion, please email me. I want to know what you know.
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