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Southern Democrats Declare "a Dead Radical Is Very Harmless"

In 1876, using the Mississippi Plan as their model, the Democratic Party in South Carolina organized a chilling campaign of violence to steal the election for governor. Their strategy, excerpted below, succeeded with the election of former Confederate General Wade Hampton. Items 2 and 16 appeared in a first draft of the plan and were marked “omit.” The authors’ original spelling and italics have been preserved.

2. [It is decreed] That the Democratic Military Clubs are to be armed with rifles and pistols and such other arms as they may command. They are to be divided into two companies, one of the old men, the other of the young; an experienced captain or commander to be placed over each of them. That each company is to have a first and second Lieutenant. That the number of ten privates is to be the unit of organization. That each captain is to see that his men are well armed and provided with at least thirty rounds of ammunition. That the Captain of the young men is to provide a Baggage wagon in which three days rations for the horses and three days rations for the men are to be stored on the day before the election in order that they may be prepared at a moment’s notice to move to any point in the County when ordered by the Chairman of the Executive Committee. 

11. Every Democrat must fell honor bound to control the vote of at least one Negro, by intimidation, purchase, keeping him away or as each individual may determine, how he may best accomplish it… 

14. In speeches to negroes you must remember that argument has no effect on them: they can only be influenced by their fears, superstition, and cupididty… Treat them so as to show them, you are the superior race, and that their natural position is that of subordination to the white man… 

16. Never threaten a man individually. If he deserves to be threatened, the necessities of the times require that he should die. A dead Radical is very harmless—a threatened Radical or one driven off by threats from the scene of his operations is often very troublesome, sometimes dangerous, always vindictive…

Source | Francis Butler Simkins and Robert Hilliard Woody, South Carolina During Reconstruction (Gloucester, MA: P. Smith, 1966), 564-569.
Creator | South Carolina Democratic Party
Item Type | Government Document
Cite This document | South Carolina Democratic Party, “Southern Democrats Declare "a Dead Radical Is Very Harmless",” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 5, 2023,

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