1866 National Union Convention

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The National Union Convention (also known as the Loyalist Convention, the Southern Loyalist Convention, the National Loyalists' Loyal Union Convention, or the Arm-In-Arm Convention) was held on August 14, 15, and 16 1866, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[1]


The convention was called in Philadelphia in advance of the mid-year elections of 1866 in an attempt to encourage political support for President Johnson, who was under attack by both moderate and Radical Republicans. Johnson's friends tried to rally support for the lenient, pro-South Reconstruction policies of Johnson. Some hoped to create a new political party but this goal was not realized.[2]

Delegates gathered at a hastily built temporary structure that was designed to accommodate the several thousand people expected to attend. Formally called "the Wigwam", this immense edifice was located on Girard Avenue between 19th and 20th streets, across from Philadelphia's Girard College.[3]

About 7,000 prominent politicians and activists attended the convention. At its opening, representatives from Massachusetts (General Darius Nash Couch) and South Carolina (Governor James Lawrence Orr) paraded arm-in-arm to symbolize national reconciliation and social equity. The convention was called to order by U.S. Postmaster General Alexander Randall. General (and former New York Governor and Senator) John Adams Dix served as the temporary chairman and Wisconsin Senator James R. Doolittle served as permanent convention president.

In the end, the convention was not successful in unifying the country behind President Johnson. He launched a speaking tour (known as the "Swing Around the Circle") hoping to regain public and political support. On this speaking tour, Johnson at times attacked his Republican opponents with crude and abusive language, and on several occasions appeared to have had too much to drink. Ultimately, the tour was a disaster for Johnson, emboldening the Congress to override him and to impeach him in 1868.[4]

Notable attendees

Notable attendees of the National Union Convention include:

Further reading

  • McKitrick, Eric. Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction (1960) pp 394–420
  • Thomas Wagstaff. "The Arm-in-Arm Convention," Civil War History 1968 14(2): 101-119
  • The proceedings of the National union convention, held at Philadelphia, August 14, 1866 at Internet Archive. primary sources

See also


  1. ^ McKitrick, Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction (1960) pp 394-420
  2. ^ Wagstaff (1968)
  3. ^ Wagstaff (1968)
  4. ^ Wagstaff (1968)

External links

  • address to President, by Hon. Reverdy Johnson, Aug. 18, 1866, communicating proceedings National Union Convention entered into the record of Johnson's impeachment trial.
  • cartoon mocking the convention by Thomas Nast, originally published in Harper's Weekly, September 29, 1866
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