Tag Archives: Progressive Politics

Carpetbagger or Reformer?

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Portrait of Edward Daniels, courtesy of Board of Regents, Gunston Hall.

By Kevin Shupe, Senior Reference Archivist at the Library of Virginia.

In 1871 Massachusetts-born Edward Daniels became the editor of the state’s flagship Republican newspaper, the Daily State Journal. He had moved to Virginia just three years previously, purchasing Gunston Hall – the formerly grand estate near Mount Vernon that had once belonged to George Mason. Daniels undoubtedly brought a Northerner’s viewpoint to the newspaper. Not only had he spent 40 years residing in New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, and most recently Chicago, he had also taken a leading role in agitating against slavery before the Civil War, was one of the founders of the Republican Party, and he had commanded a Wisconsin cavalry unit early in the war. Within a few months of taking over the newspaper, Daniels tried to win elected office. In 1871, he ran for a seat in the Virginia state legislature. A year later, he was the Republican candidate for a seat in U. S. House of Representatives. While he made a respectable showing, he lost both elections.

By all appearances, Daniels fit the stereotype of the dreaded carpetbagger — a Northerner who moved to the South after the Civil War, seeking to impose Northern political beliefs and looking to benefit from the chaotic post-war economy. This stereotype, conjured in the struggles of Reconstruction, remains a vivid censure, but it is one that in ways obscures the motives that brought Daniels briefly into the spotlight of Virginia politics. Daniels came of age in an era of rapid cultural changes, a seemingly progressive trajectory that envisioned a modern America grounded on economic and social equality. To that end he became a leading voice in a chorus of reformers who sought answers to the nation’s economic … read more »

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