The opponents of the scalawags claimed they were disloyal to traditional values of white supremacy. The term is commonly used in historical studies as a neutral descriptor of Southern white Republicans, although meaning of politics pdf historians have discarded the term due to its history of pejorative connotations. Among the earliest uses in this new meaning were references in Alabama and Georgia newspapers in the summer of 1867, first referring to all southern Republicans, then later restricting it to only white ones.
Scalawag was also a word for low-grade farm animals. In early 1868 a Mississippi editor observed that scalawag “has been used from time immemorial to designate inferior milch cows in the cattle markets of Virginia and Kentucky. Only in recent months, the Richmond paper remarked, had the term taken on political meaning. Native born Southern white man who says he is no better than a negro and tells the truth when he says it. Some accounts record his testimony as “a native Southern white man, who says that a negro is as good as he is, and tells the truth when he says so. By October 1868 a Mississippi newspaper was defining the expression scathingly in terms of Redemption politics. The term continued to be used as a pejorative by conservative pro-segregationist southerners well into the 20th century.
But historians commonly use the term to refer to the group of historical actors with no pejorative meaning intended. Confederate armed forces or held any political office under the state or Confederate governments. Historian Harold Hyman says that in 1866 Congressmen “described the oath as the last bulwark against the return of ex-rebels to power, the barrier behind which Southern Unionists and Negroes protected themselves. During the 1870s, many scalawags left the Republican Party and joined the conservative-Democrat coalition. Reconstruction governments had certified the Republican electors despite the Democratic candidate having carried the states.
Franklin gives an assessment of the motives of Southern Unionists. A curious assortment of native Southerners thus became eligible to participate in Radical Reconstruction. And the number increased as the President granted individual pardons or issued new proclamations of amnesty. Their primary interest was in supporting a party that would build the South on a broader base than the plantation aristocracy of Antebellum days. Democratic party as it gained sufficient strength to be a factor in Southern politics. It was a minority element in the GOP in every southern state after 1877.
Most of the 430 Republican newspapers in the South were edited by scalawags—only 20 percent were edited by carpetbaggers. White businessmen generally boycotted Republican papers, which survived through government patronage. Some 117 Republicans were nominated, elected, or appointed to the most lucrative and important state executive positions, judgeships, and federal legislative and judicial offices between 1868 and 1881. They included 76 white southerners, 35 northerners, and 6 former slaves. In state offices during Reconstruction, white southerners were even more predominant: 51 won nominations, compared to 11 carpetbaggers and one black.