Date of Award

Spring 1989

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Peter C. Stewart

Committee Member

James R. Sweeney

Committee Member

William Whitehurst

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.H47 S79


In explaining the rise of Democratic rule in Virginia, political historians have overlooked the significance of the Republican split of 1895-1897. Drawn mainly from primary source materials, this thesis traces the rupture that divided the GOP leadership after the death of General William Mahone, one of the Commonwealth's most remarkable political figures. The controversial election of Mahone's successor (Colonel William Lamb of Norfolk) as party chairman in November 1895 sparked two years of bitter struggle, a conflict that ultimately left the state Republicans shattered as a political force. An understanding of Democratic dominance as it developed in Virginia is incomplete without an examination of the rift that greatly weakened the state's other major political organization.

Unlike previous studies that have focused heavily upon the Democratic version of events, this study sheds more light on the forgotten Republican leaders and their actions. Although the major thrust of this work is to describe the Republican leadership struggle and factionalism, an effort has been made to place the split into a proper historical context by also including selected treatment on local politics, interracial relations, the Democrats, the Populist party, political patronage, contested elections, editorial opinion, and the eventual adoption of a new state constitution.

Attracting national attention, the GOP rift eventually required the reluctant intervention of President McKinley and his advisor, Marcus Hanna. By restoring a needed balance to the historical interpretive framework, a study of the Republican schism helps reveal more fully the advent. of one-party dominance in the Old Dominion.


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