McLane, John Augustus Hendrix, 1840-1893

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McLane, John Augustus Hendrix, 1840-1893

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McLane, John Augustus Hendrix, 1840-1893


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Biographical History

John Augustus Hendrix McLane (known as J. Hendrix McLane) was born in Jackson County, Georgia, March 23, 1848. His family was relatively poor and had been previously settled in South Carolina. His older brother fought in the Confederate army and died of battle wounds in l864. As a young man, J.H. McLane returned to South Carolina, married and, in l874, emigrated to Arkansas. His wife died shortly afterward and he returned to Feasterville, South Carolina, with their small daughter. Despite a limited formal education, he had studied philosophy, history and literature. In 1886, J.H. McLane received a two year scholarship to Tufts College Theological School. He met his second wife, Mary Clifford Friend, in Massachusetts. After the birth of the first of their four children in 1888, she joined her husband in South Carolina.

The political career of J.H. McLane can be divided into five stages corresponding to his party affiliations. Before 1878 he was an active and progressive member of the Democratic Party. However, as a poor farmer, oppressed by the scarcity of cash and by low prices on farm products, he was drawn to the Greenback Party. In 1879 he attended the Greenback Convention in Washington opposing fusion with the Democratic Party; the following year he was nominated by the Greenback-Labor Party to run for Congress. As a candidate he propagated his belief that the farmers of South Carolina had not wished to secede but were forced to take such action by Bourbon appeals to racism. He argued that the disfranchisement of the Negro after 1876 resulted in the establishment of a Bourbon oligarchy.

The South Carolina Independent movement was composed of various groups, including the Greenbackers, who protested the fraudulent, practices of the Democratic Party and advocated protection of the Negro's political rights. In 1882 J.H. McLane was nominated for governor by a convention of white Independents and endorsed by a separate black Republican convention. As their candidate for Congress in 1884 he accused Governor Hampton of reneging on his promises of equality to the Negro and economic aid to the poor whites. He appealed to enlightened Southerners to support the Republican National Party. However, when local tension developed between the Independents and the Regular Republican organization, Mr. McLane withdrew from the race.

His experience as a student of theology from 1886-1888 and his marriage to the daughter of a prominent New England family led to J.H. McLane's espousal of the Republican Party on both local and national levels. His acquaintence with Wendell Phillips and his contacts with William Lloyd Garrison, Richard Henry Dana and Frederick Douglass convinced him of the necessity of supplanting South Carolina's Bourbon rule with a revitalized Republican Party. To achieve his goal, he received financial support from several New Englanders to establish an independent weekly journal at Columbia and returned to South Carolina to organize Republican League Clubs. However, despite his efforts, the Republican Party in the South continued to be dominated by ex-federal officeholders. By 1893, McLane had reached the last stage of his political development: he rejoiced in the election of Cleveland and abandoned his hopes of a reformed Republican Party in South Carolina.

Lilias Hazewell (McLane) Seligman, a daughter born to Mr. McLane the year before his death in l893, preserved the clippings, diaries, letters and other papers collected over the years of her father's career as a political independent.

Independent politician, candidate for governorship of South Carolina in 1882.

From the guide to the John Augustus Hendrix McLane papers, 1841-1893, 1864-1893, (Manuscripts and Archives)



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South Carolina

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