The first method that Brownlow used was an assault against the ballot box. The governor regarded the defeated Confederates as political allies that needed to be tamed. Therefore, he engineered the enactment of a franchise bill that barred the Confederate leaders and their supporters from participating in elections for a period of fifteen and five years respectively. The bill created a voter registration system in order to ensure that the barred individuals did not vote. Unfortunately, the Conservative Unionists won the majority of the seats. In desperation, the governor engaged in election irregularities in order to secure a win for one of his candidates. In 1866, he suffered another loss when the Conservatives won by a landslide in Tennessee. In the same year, he amended the franchise law so as to gain more control over the voting process. Previous registrations were declared void, and voters were required to reregister. Registration commissioners were given the power to determine who was eligible and who was not, based on their support of the Union.
The second method that Brownlow employed was his realignment with the Republican Party. Washington battles had a great influence on politics in Tennessee because people were compelled to choose between President Johnson’s and the Republican’s side. The governor’s choice of affiliation paid off significantly because the congressional Republicans took control of the Reconstruction, and this enhanced his political influence. Brownlow supported the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, and did everything in his power to ensure that it passed in the Tennessee legislature. An attempt to ditch the ratification by some opponents was thwarted through the use of force; the members were arrested and their votes counted, even though they were absent. His cooperation and support were rewarded because some of his senators and representatives were seated by Congress and his state was exempted from military rule.
The third method that Brownlow used to extend his power was the enfranchisement of black men. This move was prompted by an opposition that was growing stronger and his party’s dominance was waning. The Unionists were gradually withdrawing their support for the Radicals, thus risking the loss of the legislative majority. His opponents criticized him vehemently because the move was not genuine, but a selfish decision that was aimed at cementing his hold onto power. Brownlow had stated earlier that the enfranchisement of the blacks would only happen if the ex-Rebels regained their suffrage right. He argued that since numerous disloyal people were voting, it was right that African Americans be allowed to vote. Despite fierce opposition from the Conservatives, radical legislators enfranchised adult black men in February 1867. The fourth method used by the governor was the creation of the State Guard, a military force that was founded to prevent a possible coup and protect the governor’s interests during the upcoming election. The group was comprised of black and white men who were loyal to Brownlow. His absence was insignificant because he won by a large margin.
Governor Brownlow’s assault on the ballot box, his affiliation with the Republicans, the enfranchisement of black men, and the creation of the State Guard consolidated, protected, and extended his power. These methods were both illegal and unfair because they created an uneven playing field. The enactment and the consequent amendment of the franchise law as well as the manipulation of voting returns from one district were illegal. The methods were unfair because he supported the enactment of laws that would favor him and not his opponents. His moves were selfish, and he did not refrain from breaking the law in order to achieve his objectives.