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The Southern States of America
Union League of America


This organization was formed in 1862 to "make loyalty effective." The members of the United States Sanitary Commission began the organization in 1862, in Ohio, Philadelphia, and New York. Leagues were formed all over the North before the end of 1863. The members were pledged to repudiate any political belief that conflicted with unconditional loyalty to the Union. Several similar orders were absorbed by the Union League. The organization distributed more than 5,000,-000 political pamphlets; recruited negro regiments; sent teachers to instruct the negroes; and demanded negro suffrage in 1865. The league was gradually extended into the South among the "Unionists," and during 1865-66 had a strong membership of whites in the mountain districts of that section. In 1867 negroes were admitted to the order in the South and at once nearly all of the whites deserted. From 1867 to 1876 the league and its offshoots formed the "machine" of the Radical party in the South. It controlled the negro vote absolutely and organzied it well; it made all nominations for office, and severely disciplined those who disobeyed orders. A constitution and ritual were adopted for use in the South. There was a weird initiation ceremony to impress the negroes. The members swore to vote for no one except members of their own order. An ex-Confederate could not join unless he would acknowledge that his course during the war had been treason, and under no circumstances was he eligible to office in the order or to become a candidate for political office. The administration of the league was in the hands of the so-called carpet-baggers or political adventurers from the North. The local assemblies were called councils; these together formed the Union League of America, with headquarters in each Southern state and general headquarters in New York. In the councils the negroes were drilled in the faith of the Republican party, a catechism being prepared for that purpose. There was complaint that the league was a cause of disorder and violence among the blacks on account of its incendiary teachings. At one time it was said that the membership reached 500,000 in the South. In the North after 1865 the order gradually died out, the surviving leagues becoming social clubs. As an institution of reconstruction the Union League was most important. The rigid organization and the strict control imposed by it upon the blacks, made it possible for them to vote as a race and vote the Republican ticket.


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