Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Frank Riddel

Second Advisor

Paul Lutz

Third Advisor

Troy Stewart


The Radical wing of the Republican Party, which created the state of West Virginia, imposed a punitive reconstruction program on its citizens. The disenfranchisement of most returning Confederate soldiers and the state's Confederate supporters was carried out illegally in many cases. The overzealous administering of restrictive measures longer than necessary or acceptable caused a split in the Republican Party leading to the rise of the Democratic Party in the state. The Liberal Republicans joined the Democrats in successfully removing many of the reconstruction measures affecting the disenfranchised. Once the Democratic Party regained the legislative majority, they swept away all the remaining mechanics of reconstruction by 1870. Firmly in control of the executive and legislative branches of government, the Democrats sought a new constitution for West Virginia. The truth of the matter was that there was not a need for a new constitution to dismantle reconstruction in West Virginia. Why did the Democrats call for a constitutional convention to rewrite the 1863 Constitution? The Democrats demanded a constitutional convention to achieve four goals: restrict, repeal or diminish the civil rights of the Negro and return him to a place of pre-war subservience; take control over the remaining branch of government: the judiciary; regain control over local governance; and create a constitution of their own to return the political culture of West Virginia to an ante-bellum status of political oligarchy and bigotry. The Democrats were largely successful in achieving their goals. A split within the Democratic Party, however, helped modify the most damaging proposals and produced a more progressive and less strident constitution. Regardless, the 1872 Constitutional Convention and its resulting document insured a southern leaning "Bourbon" democracy in West Virginia that lasted for a generation.


Constitutional conventions


West Virginia - History


United States - History - 1849-1877