RECONSTRUCTION is the term applied to the restoration of the seceded states and the integration of the freedmen into American society during and especially after the Civil War.
The question of the restoration of the seceded states to the Union became an issue long before the surrender at Appomattox, Virginia, on 9 April 1865. According to the Crittenden-Johnson Resolutions of July 1861, the object of the war was to restore the Union with "all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several States unimpaired." But as the conflict progressed, it became evident that this objective was impossible to achieve. Congress refused to reaffirm its policy, President Abraham Lincoln appointed military governors for partially reconquered states, and moderate and radical Republicans debated the exact status of insurgent communities.
The president viewed the process of wartime reconstruction as a weapon to detach Southerners from their allegiance to the Confederacy and thus shorten the war. Consequently, on 8 December 1863, he issued a proclamation of amnesty that promised full pardon to all disloyal citizens except a few leaders of the rebellion, former officers of the United States, and perpetrators of unlawful acts against prisoners of war. Whenever 10 percent of the voters of 1860 had taken the oath of allegiance, they were authorized to inaugurate new governments. All Lincoln required was their submission to the Union and their acceptance of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The president's plan encountered resistance in Congress. Perturbed by his failure to leave Reconstruction to the lawmakers and anxious to protect Republican interests in the South, Congress, on 2 July 1864, passed the Wade- Davis Bill, a more stringent measure than Lincoln's "ten-percent plan." Requiring an oath of allegiance from 50 percent, rather than 10 percent, of the electorate before new governments could be set up, the bill prescribed further conditions for prospective voters. Only those who were able to take an "iron-clad oath" of past loyalty were to be enfranchised, and slavery was to be abolished. When Lincoln pocket vetoed the measure, its authors bitterly attacked him in the Wade-Davis Manifesto. After the president's reelection, efforts to revive the Wade-Davis Bill in modified form failed. Congress refused to recognize the "free-state" governments established in accordance with Lincoln's plan in Louisiana and Arkansas, and so Lincoln's assassination of 14 April 1865 left the future of Reconstruction in doubt.
What Lincoln would have done if he had lived is difficult to establish. It is known that as soon as General Ulysses S. Grant had forced General Robert E. Lee to surrender, the president withdrew his invitation to members of the Confederate legislature to Virginia to reassemble: his wartime plans are evidently not necessarily a guide to his peacetime intentions. It is also clear that he was not averse to the enfranchisement of qualified blacks. He wrote to this effect to the governor of Louisiana and touched on the subject in his last public address on 11 April 1865. But, as he said in his second inaugural address, pleading for "malice toward none" and "charity for all," he was anxious for a speedy reconciliation between the sections.
With the end of the war, the problem of Reconstruction—both the restoration of the states and the integration of the freedmen—became more acute. If the seceded states were to be restored without any conditions, local whites would soon reestablish rule by the Democratic Party. They would seek to reverse the verdict of the sword and, by combining with their Northern associates, challenge Republican supremacy. Moreover, before long, because of the end of slavery and the lapse of the Three-Fifths Compromise, the South would obtain a larger influence in the councils of the nation than before the war.
The easiest way of solving this problem would have been to extend the suffrage to the freedmen. But in spite of an increasing radical commitment to votes for blacks, the majority of the party hesitated. Popular prejudice, not all of it in the South, was too strong, and many doubted the feasibility of enfranchising newly liberated slaves. Nevertheless, the integration of the blacks into American life now became one of the principal issues of Reconstruction.
Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson, was wholly out of sympathy with black suffrage, especially if conferred by the federal government. A Southerner and former slave-holder, Johnson held deep prejudices against blacks, who, he believed, should occupy an inferior place in society. In addition, as a firm adherent of states' rights, he was convinced that voting rights were the exclusive concern of the states, not the federal government. He was willing to have the states concede the vote to very few educated or propertied African Americans, but only to stop radical agitation. Based on his Jacksonian conviction of an indestructible Union of indestructible states, his Reconstruction policies in time of peace resembled those of his predecessor in time of war. But they were no longer appropriate.
Johnson's plan, published on 29 May 1865, called for the speedy restoration of Southern governments based on the (white) electorate of 1861. His proclamation of amnesty offered pardons to all insurgents swearing an oath of allegiance to the United States except for certain exempted classes, including high officers of the Confederacy and those owning property valued at more than $20,000, but even they were eligible for individual pardons. Appointing provisional governors—executives who were to call constitutional conventions—first for North Carolina and then for the other states, Johnson expected the restored states to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery, nullify the secession ordinances, and repudiate the Confederate debt, although he did not even insist on these conditions.
In operation, the president's plan revealed that little had changed in the South. Not one of the states enfranchised even literate blacks. Some balked at nullifying the secession ordinances, others hesitated or failed to repudiate the Confederate debt, and Mississippi refused to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment. Former insurgent leaders, including Alexander H. Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, were elected to Congress. Several states passed Black Codes that in effect remanded the freedmen to a condition not far removed from slavery.
The reaction of Northerners to these developments was not favorable. When Congress met in December, it refused to admit any of the representatives from the seceded states, even the most loyal ones, and created a Joint Committee of Fifteen on Reconstruction to which all matters pertaining to the restoration of the South were to be referred. It was clear that Congress would not acquiesce to Johnson's policy.
The president had to make a choice. As the Republican Party consisted of radicals, moderates, and conservatives, he could either cooperate with the moderate center of the party or, by opposing it, break with the over-whelming majority of Republicans and rely on the small minority of conservatives and the Democrats. Most Republicans were hoping to avoid a rift with Johnson, but the president left them little choice. When Lyman Trumbull, the moderate chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, framed a bill extending the powers and duration of the Freedmen's Bureau, an agency established during
Lincoln's administration to succor freedmen and refugees, he vetoed it and delivered a speech comparing the leaders of the radicals to Jefferson Davis. The veto was upheld, but when, unwilling to compromise on the subjects of race and federal relations—he also vetoed Trumbull's civil rights bill, a measure to protect African Americans—his veto was overridden, and Congress thereafter tended to override most of his vetoes.
Congress then developed a Reconstruction plan of its own: the Fourteenth Amendment. Moderate in tone, it neither conferred suffrage upon the blacks nor exacted heavy penalties from Southern whites. Clearly defining citizenship, it made African Americans part of the body politic, sought to protect them from state interference, and provided for reduced representation for states disfranchising prospective voters. If Johnson had been willing to accept it, the struggle over Reconstruction might have ended. But the president was wholly opposed to the measure. Believing the amendment subversive of the Constitution and of white supremacy, he used his influence to procure its defeat in the Southern states, an effort that succeeded everywhere except in Tennessee, which was readmitted on 24 July 1866. At the same time, he sought to build up a new party consisting of conservative Republicans and moderate Democrats. The rival plans of Reconstruction thus became an issue in the midterm elections of 1866, during which four conventions met, while Johnson, on a trip to a monument to Stephen Douglas in Chicago, campaigned actively for his program and once more denigrated the radical leaders. His claims of having established peace in the South were weakened by serious riots in Memphis and New Orleans.
The elections resulted in a triumph for the Republican majority. Since the president was still unwilling to cooperate—he continued his opposition to the amendment—Congress, overriding his veto or opposition, proceeded to shackle him by restricting his powers of removal (see Tenure of Office Act) and of military control (command of the army provisions of the Military Appropriations Act for 1867–1868). In addition, it passed a series of measures known as the Reconstruction Acts, which inaugurated the congressional, formerly called the "radical," phase of Reconstruction.
The first two Reconstruction Acts divided the South (except for Tennessee) into five military districts, enfranchised male African Americans, and required Southern states to draw up constitutions safeguarding black suffrage. The new legislatures were expected to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment, and certain Confederate officeholders were for a time barred from voting and holding office.
The president refused to concede defeat. After his vetoes of the Reconstruction Acts were not sustained, he sought to lessen their effect. His attorney general's lenient interpretation of the law led to the more stringent third Reconstruction Act (19 July 1867). Reaffirming that the Southern governments were only provisional and conferring
powers of removal of officers and alleged voters upon the commanding generals, the law only spurred Johnson to further resistance. On 12 August he suspended Edwin M. Stanton, his radical secretary of war. After appointing Grant secretary ad interim, he also removed some radical major generals in the South. Always believing that in the end the popular majority would sustain him, he was greatly encouraged by Democratic successes in the fall elections.
Johnson's intransigence resulted in a complete break with Congress and to efforts to remove him. Because the radicals lacked a majority, and because the charges against the president were too flimsy, the first attempt to impeach him, on 7 December 1867, failed. But when the Senate reinstated Stanton, and Johnson dismissed him again, this time in defiance of the Tenure of Office Act, as Congress was in session, the House acted. Passing a resolution of impeachment on 24 February 1868, it put the president on trial before the Senate. Because of the defection of seven moderate Republicans and the weakness of the case, on 16 and again on 26 May he was acquitted by one vote. His narrow escape once more encouraged Southern conservatives, so that it was difficult for Grant, elected president in November 1868, to carry congressional Reconstruction to a successful conclusion.
During 1867 and 1868 congressional Reconstruction had been gradually initiated. Despite conservative opposition—Congress had to pass a fourth Reconstruction Act requiring a majority of voters rather than of registrants before the constitution of Alabama was accepted—the electorate ratified the new charters in all but three states: Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia. Accordingly, in the summer of 1868 the compliant states were readmitted and the Fourteenth Amendment declared in force. Because Georgia later excluded African Americans from its legislature and because Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia, for various local reasons, did not ratify their constitutions on time, those four states were subjected to additional requirements. These included ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, prohibiting the denial of suffrage on account of race. After complying with the new demands, in 1870 these states too were restored to their place in the Union, and the amendment was added to the Constitution.
Historians have long argued about the nature of the governments Congress imposed upon the South. According to William A. Dunning and his school, they were characterized by vindictiveness, corruption, inefficiency, and ruthless exploitation of Southern whites. Northern Carpetbaggers, local scalawags, and their black tools supposedly trampled white civilization underfoot. Modern scholars have questioned these assumptions: pointing out that the governments imposed by Congress succeeded in establishing systems of public education, eleemosynary (charitable) institutions, and workable constitutions, they have discarded the concept of "black Reconstruction." Black legislators were in a majority only in South Carolina, and even there their white allies wielded considerable influence. Conceding the presence of corruption in the South, these historians have emphasized its nationwide scope. They have tended to show that the new governments deserved credit for making the first efforts to establish racial democracy in the South; that far from being vindictive, they speedily extended amnesty to former Confederates; and that many radical officeholders, black and white alike, did not compare unfavorably with their conservative colleagues. In addition, they no longer called congressional Reconstruction "radical," because the measures enacted by the moderate majority fell far short of radical demands. The Fourteenth Amendment did not
enfranchise African Americans, the Fifteenth did not protect them from interpretations designed to deprive them of the vote, and the Reconstruction Acts did not impose stringent restrictions on former Confederate leaders.
The Waning of Reconstruction
But the experiment could not last. The rapid disappearance, by death or retirement, of the radical Republicans, the granting of amnesty to former Confederates, the conservatives' resort to terror, and a gradual loss of interest by the North would have made Reconstruction difficult in any case. These problems were complicated by the blacks' lack of economic power—Johnson had gone so far as to return to whites lands already occupied by freedmen. Factionalism within the dominant party increased with the rise of the Liberal Republicans in 1872, and the panic of 1873 eroded Republican majorities in the House. The Supreme Court, which had refused to interfere with Reconstruction in Mississippi v. Johnson (1867) and Georgia v. Stanton (1867), began to interpret the Fourteenth Amendment very narrowly, as in the Slaughterhouse Cases (1873). Such a tendency foreshadowed the Court's further weakening not only of the Fourteenth but also the Fifteenth Amendment in United States v. Cruikshank (1876) and United States v. Reese (1876) and its invalidation of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 in the Civil Rights Cases (1883).
The end of Reconstruction came at different times in several states. Despite the passage during 1870 and 1871 of three Force Acts seeking to protect black voting rights and to outlaw the Ku Klux Klan, the gradual collapse of the regimes imposed by Congress could not be arrested. In some cases terror instigated by the Klan and its violent successors overthrew Republican administrations; in others, conservatives regained control by more conventional means. By 1876 Republican administrators survived only in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, all of which returned disputed election results in the fall. After a series of economic and political bargains enabled Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican candidate, to be inaugurated president, he promptly withdrew remaining federal troops from the Southern statehouses, and Reconstruction in those states, already weakened by Northern unwillingness to interfere further, also came to an end. For a time, African Americans continued to vote, although in decreasing numbers, but by the turn of the century they had been almost completely eliminated from Southern politics.
Reconstruction thus seemed to end in failure, and the myth of radical misrule embittered relations between the sections. But in spite of their apparent lack of accomplishment, the radicals, spurring on the Republican majority, had succeeded in embedding the postwar amendments in the Constitution, amendments that were the foundation for the struggle for racial equality in the twentieth century.
Belz, Herman. Reconstructing the Union: Theory and Policy during the Civil War. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1969.
Benedict, Michael Les. A Compromise of Principle: Congressional Republicans and Reconstruction, 1863–1869. New York: Norton, 1974.
Cox, LaWanda, and John H. Cox. Politics, Principle, and Prejudice, 1865–1866: Dilemma of Reconstruction America. New York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1963.
Donald, David Herbert, Jean Harvey Baker, and Michael F. Holt. The Civil War and Reconstruction. New York: Norton, 2001.
Foner, Eric. Reconstruction, America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863– 1877. New York: Harper and Row, 1988.
McKitrick, Eric L. Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960.
Perman, Michael. Reunion without Compromise: The South and Reconstruction, 1865–1868. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1973.
———. The Road to Redemption: Southern Politics, 1869–1879. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984.
Stampp, Kenneth M. The Era of Reconstruction, 1865–1877. New York: Knopf, 1965.
Simpson, Brooks D. The Reconstruction Presidents. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998.
Trefousse, Hans L. Andrew Johnson: A Biography. New York: Norton, 1989.
See alsoCivil War ; Georgia v. Stanton ; Impeachment Trial of Andrew Johnson ; Mississippi v. Johnson ; Race Relations ; Slaughterhouse Cases ; United States v. Cruikshank ; United States v. Reese ; andvol. 9:Black Code of Mississippi, November 1965 ; President Andrew Johnson's Civil Rights Bill Veto ; Police Regulations of Saint Landry Parish, Louisiana .
"Reconstruction." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/reconstruction
"Reconstruction." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved February 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/reconstruction
Continuity. A few faiths had organizational systems that were not torn apart before the Civil War and therefore did not suffer a difficult period of reunion. Jews, for example, had a congregational polity in which each synagogue or temple usually shared the morality of its location. Catholicism had a different polity but the same outcome. Its unity, centered in Rome and not on American nationalism, survived the war. The Protestant Episcopal Church had an organizational structure which seemed to put it at risk because it was led by a national body of bishops. When the Civil War began, it followed the division between the two nations. However, right after the war ended, the reunited Protestant Episcopal Church met, receiving delegates from the former Confederate
States of America without problem. Thereafter, the Episcopalians did not divide over sectional issues, but over the degree of ritualism to be permitted in their denomination.
The Impossible Return. The Methodists found reunification impossible. Instead of reuniting with the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, the Northern Methodists tried to colonize the South, bringing in northern ministers as pastors for southern (especially black) congregations. In June 1865 Missouri Methodists responded with the Palmyra Manifesto, calling for the Southern Methodists to take action to preserve the denomination. In 1866 Southern Methodist bishops met at New Orleans, rejected the possibility of reunion with others of the same faith, and laid out plans for a complete denominational structure. In 1873 “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt, a New Yorker married to a Southerner, gave $500,000 to Southern Methodists for the establishment of a denominational college and seminary (now Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee). By this time only one link with Northern Methodism remained. Beginning in 1848 the Southern Methodists had sent a “fraternal delegate” to attend annual meetings of the Northern Methodists; they continued to do so even as the denominations developed separate structures. In 1872 this became a reciprocal arrangement, with the Northern Methodists sending their own fraternal delegate to the Southerners’ annual meetings.
Presbyterians. In other denominations, forces combined with Reconstruction to shape church structure. The Presbyterians, for example, were still struggling with a split caused by differences over slavery, and in 1865 they remained divided into four groups: Southern and Northern Old and New Schools. During the Civil War, Southern Presbyterians had concluded that unity over slavery was more important than differences over polity and education, and they united. Similarly the Northern New and Old Schools merged in 1869, but the Northern and Southern Presbyterians remained separate.
Baptists. The Baptists had their own doctrinal differences. Prior to the Civil War, Hard Shell Baptists had refused to join with other Baptists in national organizations for the purposes of sending missionaries to places where the Gospel was not yet preached. During the 1850s, the Southern Baptists were more or less held together by the Southern Baptist Convention and by shared support of slavery, but they were divided by a controversy known as Landmarkism. The basic issue was common to every Christian denomination. Biblical scholars generally agreed that early Christians intended that there should be only one Christian church. While the Mormons claimed that this one true church stemmed from the new revelation given to Joseph Smith, most Christian denominations tried to trace their particular faith back in an unbroken line to apostolic times. This was particularly difficult for the Baptists, since there was a long period during which infant baptism, rather than the Baptists’ use of baptism as a sacrament of adult commitment to faith, prevailed. But Southern Baptist leader James R. Graves insisted it could be done, and in 1851 he got a Baptist meeting at Bolivar, Tennessee, to adopt the Cotton Grove Resolution, proclaiming the Baptist denomination to be the one true faith and refusing to accept any other church as an equal. The movement got the name of Landmarkism from an 1854 pamphlet titled Old Landmark Re-Set, written by one of Graves’s colleagues, James M. Pendleton. Proclaiming Baptism to be the one true faith made it impossible to continue cooperation with other denominations in the matter of foreign missions and difficult even to work with denominations that shared the Baptist name but not this particular doctrine. Moreover, there was some doubt about Graves’s and Pendleton’s historical accuracy. (The evidence against the Landmark theory of Baptist origins was not published until the 1890s.) Another conflict besetting the Baptists was ethnic, as exhibited by the creation of the North American Baptist Conference by German Baptists in 1865.
“O! LET MY PEOPLE GO”
The Lord by Moses to Pharoah said: O let my people go! If not, I’ll smite your firstborn dead, Then let my people go!
Chorus: O! go down, Moses, Away down to Egypt’s land, And tell King Pharoah, To let my people go!
No more shall they in bondage toil, O let my people go! Let them come out with Egypt’s spoil, O let my people go!
Haste, Moses, ’till the sea you’ve crossed, ? let my people go!
Pharoah shall in the deep be lost, O let my people go!
The sea before you shall divide, O let my people go! You’ll cross dry-shod to the other side, O let my people go!
Fear not King Pharoah or his host, O let my people go! They all shall in the sea be lost, O let my people go!
They’ll sink like lead to rise no more, O let my people go! And you’ll hear a shout on the other shore, O let my people go!
The fiery cloud shall lead the way, O let my people go! A light by night, a shade by day, O let my people go!
Jordan shall stand up like a wall, O let my people go! And the walls of Jericho shall fall, O let my people go!
Your foes shall not before you stand, O let my people go! And you’ll possess fair Canaan’s land, O let my people go!
O let us all from bondage flee, O let my people go! And let us all in Christ be free, O let my people go!
This world’s a wilderness of woe, O let my people go! O let us all to glory go, O let my people go!
Source: Dena J. Epstein, Sinful Tunes and Spirituals: Black Folk Music to the Civil War (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1977), pp. 367-370.
African American Evangelization. In theory, American faiths had a new field for evangelization among the four million blacks whose legal status had been changed from that of property to that of persons in 1865. Roman Catholic bishops urged evangelization among African Americans in their 1866 plenary council. The Congregationalists went further, using the AMA to provide charitable and spiritual aid to African Americans. Nevertheless, membership in these and other denominations did not increase, as was seen with AMA work among free people at Port Royal, South Carolina. A coalition of reformers under AMA auspices developed an ambitious program to assimilate former slaves into American society economically, politically, and spiritually. The reformers turned out to have conflicting approaches. Some thought they were assimilating freed people to a self-sufficient agricultural economy, which would ultimately lead to black ownership of land. Others thought they were assimilating blacks to the emerging capitalist economy, in which the blacks worked for wages and then used their wages to play the role of consumers. A more serious
problem was that neither faction of reformers reached common ground with the freed people they were trying to help. Former slaves wanted to own land, and they took advantage of the education offered, but they tried to distance themselves from too much white involvement in their community and they did not join the Congrega-tionalists. The project came to an end when it became clear that the federal government was not going to redistribute land to freed blacks.
Racism. Race, politics, economics, and religion all had a hand in the outcome of the Port Royal experiment. The experiences of Sara G. Stanley, an AMA missionary teacher, showed the primacy of race. Stanley was born a free black in North Carolina. She graduated from Ober-lin College with a teacher’s certificate and taught in Ohio from 1857 until 1864, when she volunteered for AMA service. She and the other blacks with whom she taught had many unpleasant experiences with white men and women who came south to teach and convert blacks but who did not accept their black colleagues as their equals. They also made the black teachers’ lives harder, assigning them to isolated rural schools with inadequate supplies and equipment. In Stanley’s case, the hard work and lack of support may have contributed to a breakdown in her physical health. In 1865 she left the mission field for a two-year rest. She returned in 1867 but ran into more racism when she became engaged to a colleague, a white Civil War veteran named Charles Woodward. She was at the time living in a house for AMA teachers, and when she expressed her desire to be married at this home, her colleagues were so opposed to the interracial romance that they unsuccessfully tried to make her marry elsewhere.
The Irony of Separatism. Racism, combined with some sincere efforts to shield blacks from prejudice and discrimination, produced a situation in which the greater the distance between blacks and whites in religious organizations, the more space there was for blacks to exercise religious self-government. For example, in 1866, as part of their effort to expand to the South, Northern Methodists organized a separate black conference, headed by a black bishop. Southern Methodists countered the Northern challenge and thus took responsibility for southern black faith. They exercised it by releasing all black members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, to form their own denomination. The result was the 1870 creation of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. Similarly, a Colored Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized in 1869, and a Colored Presbyterian Church was organized by the Southern Presbyterians in 1874. Like the black Presbyterian organizations, black Baptist institutions were shaped not only by racism but by doctrinal differences within the faith. In 1866 the Colored Primitive Baptists organized, as did the North Carolina state convention of regular black Baptists, the first in the nation.
African American Religious Traditions. There was another reason that denominations made little headway among former slaves, which was that even during the years of slavery African Americans had developed their own religious organizations. Many slaveholders could not bring themselves to deny their slaves’ humanity so thoroughly as to deny them religion. They tried to regulate that religion, gathering slaves for owner-approved sermons on scriptural injunctions regarding obedience to masters, but, again, a sense of what religion was led them to leave their slaves some freedom to conduct their own funerals and prayer services. In these settings, African Americans combined various elements to create their own religious culture. That culture was characterized by some practices brought over from Africa, although none of those practices were preserved in their original setting. Instead, a combination of familiarity with Scripture, some common elements of Christianity, and African heritage shaped a particular understanding of religion. One important element of that understanding was the correlation between slavery and racism. Both were sins, that is, violations of God’s will. Scripture promised that God’s will would prevail, which meant that, by some means, slavery and racism would end. Scripture also promised that God would punish sinners, so that those afflicted by slavery and racism could depend on divine power to eventually mete out a deserved fate to everyone. Thus, while the churches were not necessarily advocates of active opposition to slavery and racism, they were advocates of faith in biblical promises and in watchful waiting for opportunities to cooperate with divine will.
African American Denominations. Two entirely black denominations existed at the beginning of Reconstruction—the African Methodist Episcopal Church (founded in 1816) and the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Zion (1821). Between 1864 and 1868, the two denominations discussed cooperation in the mission field, but they were unable to reach a plan of union. Unity might have been more in accord with Christian ideals or with the goal of efficient, economic evangelization, but competition among the various black Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians had the advantage of bringing more people into contact with the church more quickly. The Protestant ministry became the profession in which black men could rise the fastest and farthest, and it became a starting point from which they could reach out toward political leadership. For example, in 1870 Richard Henry Boyd, son of a slave mother and white father, converted to the Baptist faith and entered its ministry. He made a career for himself as superintendent of its Sunday schools and later became leader of the American National Baptist Convention. Few denominations permitted the ordination of women, but the black church provided limited opportunities for female leadership in church-affiliated self-help and philanthropic organizations.
Lack of Theological Support. Both before and after Reconstruction, great events in American history were accompanied by theological reflection. The era of 1865-1877, however, did not produce such insight. Few people struggled with the morality of Reconstruction the way many had struggled with the morality of slavery. As it turned out, the theologians’ attention was elsewhere, on the rise of corporate capitalism and the challenge of Darwin. Racism remained unstudied, just when religious people most needed to understand the nature and extent of this sin.
C. Eric Lincoln, Race, Religion and the Continuing American Dilemma (New York: Hill & Wang, 1984);
Albert J. Raboteau, Slave Religion: The “Invisible Institution” in the Antebellum South (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978);
Willie Lee Rose, Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment (Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1964).
"Reconstruction." American Eras. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/reconstruction-0
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Confederate surrender changed the picture entirely. Many parts of the South had by now experienced the presence of Union troops. Neither soldiers nor civilians knew how long that presence might last, nor what policies would govern the relationship between victor and vanquished. The Constitution, not having anticipated a breakup of the Union by force, gave little specific guidance for the aftermath of such an effort. Federal statutes were equally uninformative on the peacetime use of military power in support of federal political processes. The American tradition of civil control of military institutions was well developed, yet that tradition would not provide clear answers to the many specific questions of power soon to arise. Other complicating factors were the clamor of volunteer troops to go home as soon as possible; the legislative need to establish a peacetime size for the regular army; the resumption of patrol and Indian‐fighting duties in the West; and the need for troops to support diplomatic moves against the French presence in Mexico.
During the twelve years of Reconstruction (1865–77), the army's experience in the South evolved significantly as its powers, functions, and problems changed. Five distinct phases can be identified. An initial period of six weeks extended from mid‐April 1865 to the end of May. The Confederate national government had collapsed and in many states there were no civil governments functioning. Legislators, governors, judges, aldermen, sheriffs, and other local officials were not at their posts. Thus the army, by default, assumed the task of local government.
Applying to civil government its familiar pattern of military administration, the army established departments, districts, and subdistricts throughout the South. Commanding officers of troops doubled as executive officers of government, or sought to find loyal and trustworthy civilians whom they could temporarily appoint to vacant positions. Considerations of workload as well as personal ability led army officers to prefer a pattern of civilian officeholders working under military orders.
The broad category of regulation called the police power, focusing on the health, safety, welfare, and morals of the community, came under military supervision. Specific subjects varied widely depending on local conditions. Typical regulations applied to collection of garbage, disinfecting alleys and streets with lime, naked children in public, dogs running at large, public profanity, speed limits for carriages, whitewashing of tree trunks, vagrancy, prostitution, distribution of food relief, and reopening of schools. Some commanders required proof of having taken the loyalty oath as a qualification for certain services, including receipt of mail or obtaining a marriage license. Approximately 250,000 troops remained in the South in the weeks immediately following the surrender. They performed a wide variety of different duties without adequate training. Commanding generals, some of whom were not regulars, often had to act on their own judgment or a highly general letter of instruction from superiors. The war had ended with a military surrender, not a treaty of peace, and the future policy of the government was initially unsettled.
On 29 May 1865, President Andrew Johnson issued two proclamations that would begin a period of “presidential Reconstruction.” One prescribed a loyalty oath, established the terms of a general amnesty, and specified a process whereby those excluded from the general amnesty could apply for individual pardon. The second appointed a provisional governor for North Carolina and set forth a process for the reestablishment of a permanent state government and election of local officials. Thus began the second phase of the army's role in the South, which would extend until December 1865. Johnson shortly issued proclamations establishing provisional governments in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas. In Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Virginia, the provisional governments established during the war continued.
The army's presence in the South now had a specific focus. The provisional governors were to reestablish civil government by the participation of loyal voters. The army was to “aid and assist the said provisional governor in carrying into effect this proclamation.” Johnson also ordered soldiers “to abstain from in any way hindering, impeding, or discouraging the loyal people from the organization of a State government.” Yet much remained unclear. A provisional governor of a state appointed by the president was an anomaly in American constitutional practice. A military force placed to whatever degree at the call of such an official was equally anomalous.
Controversies were bound to occur. Governors wrote to President Johnson complaining about military interference. Officers wrote to the Commanding General, Ulysses S. Grant, asking for instructions about the limits of their authority. In Mississippi, Governor William L. Sharkey and Gen. Henry W. Slocum clashed over the governor's desire to form a state militia independent of military control. A widespread subject of controversy was military arrests: Could commanders arrest civilians on their own initiative, or only in pursuance of a request from civilian officials for aid in effecting an arrest in a dangerous area? Law enforcement was made more complex by jurisdictional conflicts among (a) military commissions, (b) special Freedmen's Bureau courts designed to resolve labor contract disputes, and (c) local courts reopened by provisional governors. General Grant and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton supported the army in these conflicts, while President Johnson often sided with his political appointees, the provisional governors.
By September 1865, the number of troops in the South was down to 187,000. Distribution varied from 8,700 in Florida to 16,000 in Tennessee to 24,000 in Louisiana to 45,000 in Texas. A growing problem was the desire of white volunteer regiments to be mustered out, which left an increasing proportion of black regiments, organized late in the war, with a year or more left on their enlistments. By the end of 1865, when total troop strength had dropped to 88,000, black regiments outnumbered white ones by 11 to 1 in Mississippi, 6 to 1 in Tennessee, and 9 to 5 in Louisiana. There was a slight preponderance of black troops in Arkansas and Florida, and equal numbers in Alabama and Texas. Complaints from governors about mutual racial antipathy as well as negative reports about discipline from some commanding generals led to an increased discharge rate for black volunteer regiments during 1866.
In December 1865, Congress (which had been out of session since March) met for its new term, expressed dissatisfaction with the results of Johnson's program, and refused to readmit any seceded states to representation. This initiated a legislative struggle with Johnson over control of policy that lasted until March 1867. In consequence of the confusion in Washington, the army's role entered its third phase. The provisional governments remained in place, but congressional Republicans wanted more military supervision of them. Conflict with governors over appointment and removal of local officials increased. Passage of the Freedmen's Bureau Act meant continued military aid for that agency. Passage of the Civil Rights Act, signifying a congressional desire to supersede discriminatory state legislation and judicial practices, meant greater use of military courts, or at least military protection, for former slaves and white unionists. All the while numbers declined, from 39,000 troops in the South in April to 20,000 at year's end. In 1866, the total peacetime strength of the regular army was set at 58,000.
On 2 March 1867, Congress passed the First Reconstruction Act over Johnson's veto, thus establishing a program of “congressional Reconstruction.” The army's role entered its fourth phase, which would continue in each state until such time, between the summer of 1868 and the spring of 1871, as the particular state gained readmission to Congress. During this phase, the army's direct power over civil affairs and southern politics reached its greatest extent. The First Reconstruction Act superseded all of the existing state governments, required the election of conventions to rewrite state constitutions, and mandated a new registration of voters under specified qualifications and the election of new governors and legislators. This political process occurred under total military supervision. Congress established five military districts and required the president to assign an army general to the command of each district.
That officer had the duty “to protect all persons in their rights of persons and property, to suppress insurrection, disorder, and violence, and to punish, or cause to be punished, all disturbers of the public peace and criminals.” In a clarification of previous uncertainties, the commanding generals had specific permission to try civilians by military commission. Subsequent legislation allowed the generals to appoint the registration boards and control other aspects of the electoral process. They could also remove any civil official and need not accept the U.S. Attorney General's interpretation of their powers under the law.
Gen. Philip H. Sheridan in Louisiana and Gen. John Pope in Georgia removed governors as well as lesser officials. Pope gerrymandered electoral districts in order to control the results and sought to regulate the press by requiring official notices to be published only in papers that did not oppose congressional Reconstruction. The administration of Gen. John Schofield in Virginia was by comparison much less contentious.
By this legislation as well as other contemporary provisions, Congress had assigned the army an overtly political function. It had also made certain that the army would implement its views on Reconstruction and not those of the president. During the summer of 1867, Johnson removed Generals Sheridan, Pope, and Dan Sickles from their commands. His subsequent efforts to get Edwin M. Stanton out of the War Department led to his impeachment.
Congress readmitted several states to representation in the summer of 1868. Others followed in 1870 and 1871. Readmission began the fifth and last phase of army duties in the South, which would continue until the inauguration of Rutherford Hayes in the spring of 1877. Troop strength dropped from 18,000 in October 1868 (one‐third on the Texas frontier) to 6,000 in the fall of 1876 (half in Texas). In 1869, a retrenchment‐minded Congress once again cut the size of the regular army to less than 40,000 men.
Duties were more intermittent than continuous. Detachments went out to accompany federal revenue officers in search of illicit whiskey stills. General suppression of crime was also a task for the army, but now only at the request of civil authorities, federal or state. The amount of discretion left to the army in honoring these requests caused controversy; often the requests ended up in Washington for review and approval. In 1871, Gen. Alfred H. Terry reported that in the six states of his command, there had been more than 200 expeditions in aid of law enforcement that year. The army also provided the force behind a major effort to break the Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina during 1870–72. Around election time, military activity increased as small detachments visited troubled areas of the state to guard polls and discourage intimidation of voters. Congressional Reconstruction brought Republican state regimes to power, which often called for military aid in the period following readmission. The most continuous use of troops for this purpose was the protracted party struggle in Louisiana from 1872 to 1877.
The twelve years of Reconstruction saw frequent changes in policy, and with them, changes in the army's legal powers and functions. As an institution, the army was able to adjust to these changes, largely because officers saw themselves as administering policy rather than establishing it. This fit the established American tradition in civil‐military relations, in spite of the executive‐legislative conflict over army control in the Johnson years. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, reflecting the Reconstruction experience, further limited military enforcement of civil law. On the whole, military administration of federal policy was creditable to the institution of the U.S. Army despite errors of judgment and highly unusual circumstances.
[See also African Americans in the Military; Army, U.S.: 1866–99; Civil‐Military Relations; Colored Troops, U.S.]
Otis Singletary , The Negro Militia and Reconstruction, 1957.
Max L. Heyman , Prudent Soldier: A Biography of Major General E. R. S. Canby, 1959.
Benjamin P. Thomas and and Harold Hyman , Stanton: The Life and Times of Lincoln's Secretary of War, 1962.
James E. Sefton , The United States Army and Reconstruction, 1865–1877, 1967.
Jack D. Foner , The United States Soldier Between Two Wars: Army Life and Reforms, 1865–1898, 1970.
James E. Sefton , Andrew Johnson and the Uses of Constitutional Power, 1980.
Joseph G. Dawson III , Army Generals and Reconstruction: Louisiana, 1862–1877, 1982.
William L. Richter , The Army in Texas During Reconstruction, 1865–1870, 1987.
James E. Sefton
"Reconstruction." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/reconstruction
"Reconstruction." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved February 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/reconstruction
Alternatives. The main tendencies of Reconstruction might be appreciated by comparing the process to scenarios that some observers predicted, or recommended, but that did not in fact take place after the war. For example, while many Northerners argued that justice demanded severe punishment for the leaders of an insurrection that had cost over six hundred thousand lives and millions of dollars, little retribution took place. The federal government did not systematically confiscate planters’ lands. Jefferson Davis spent two years waiting in federal prison for a trial that was dismissed shortly after it began, but commandant Henry Wirz of the notorious Andersonville prison was the only Confederate executed for his role in the war. Similarly, some Confederates suggested that the rebellion might be sustained as a guerrilla movement in the hills and mountains of the South, while others fled to Mexico and Brazil. Most returned home, however, and tried to rebuild their lives. Although the armed resistance of the Ku Klux Klan and other white Southern groups would be an important part of Reconstruction, there was no coordinated campaign to wear down federal authority by force. The campaign of violence to subordinate blacks also differed markedly from the race war that many white Southerners regarded as the likely outcome of emancipation. The fact that these scenarios did not come to pass suggests the strength of the desire for a peaceful reconciliation and the limits of the upheaval that took place in Reconstruction. Yet it should also be noted that in other parts of the world the end of slavery during the nineteenth century had led to the establishment of separate political castes. The progress of former slaves not only to freedom but to full rights of citizenship, however imperfectly enforced, was an extraordinary revolution.
FORTY ACRES AND A MULE
In January 1865 Gen. William T. Sherman ordered the setting aside of land abandoned by planters in the lowcountry of South Carolina for distribution to former slaves. Each family would receive a homestead of forty acres, and Sherman indicated that the army could lend them the use of mules. This promise, likely the basis for the phrase “forty acres and a mule” associated with Reconstruction, was rescinded by President Andrew Johnson in September 1865. When Gen. Oliver O. Howard, head of the Freedmen’s Bureau, informed freedmen of the policy reversal, they presented a formal response:
General, we want Homesteads, we were promised Homesteads by the government. If it does not carry out the promises its agents made to us, if the government having concluded to befriend its late enemies and to neglect to observe the principles of common faith between its self and us its allies in the war you said was over, now takes away from them all right to the soil they stand upon save such as they can get by again working for your late and their all time enemies… we are left in a more unpleasant condition than our former…. You will see this is not the condition of really freemen.
Source: Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877 (New York: Harper & Row, 198S), p. 160.
Presidential Reconstruction. Because the Civil War ended while Congress was not in session, and not scheduled to return to Washington for almost eight months, President Andrew Johnson was in a strong position to define Reconstruction policy during the crucial period after he took office upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The former tailor’s apprentice from Tennessee had achieved his national political reputation as a spokesman for Southern yeomen and as a firm Unionist, and observers expected his policies to be guided by his oft-quoted declaration that “treason must be made odious, and traitors must be punished and impoverished.” To the contrary, however, he did little to interfere with the political structure of the states that had seceded. He did not use federal patronage, one of his most important resources, to broaden Southern political leadership. He appointed provisional governors in each state who were committed to the Union but not to genuine reform. Even his boldest choice, North Carolina governor William W. Holden, had “unqualified opposition to what is called negro suffrage.” More generally, Johnson extended amnesty to almost all participants in the rebellion. His other plans similarly sought little change. He overruled policies providing for at least limited redistribution of land to former slaves, and he did not attempt to interfere with the adoption of the “Black Codes” by which Southern whites sought to limit the meaning of emancipation. Requiring Southern states only to nullify their ordinances of secession, ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, and repudiate
the state debts incurred in the rebellion, he notified Congress shortly after it assembled in December 1865 that Reconstruction was finished.
Congress and the President. Johnson’s Reconstruction policy did not satisfy the Republican majority in Congress, including moderates as well as those committed to a radical restructuring of Southern society. In the eyes of many Northerners, the folly of the President’s approach was most clearly illustrated when the Georgia legislature elected Alexander H. Stephens, the former vice president of the Confederacy, to represent the state in the Senate. Congress denied the seating of the Southern delegations and set up a Joint Committee on Reconstruction to formulate a more meaningful political expression of the outcome of the war. This process resulted in passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and reorganization of the Freedmen’s Bureau, the federal agency chartered at the end of the war to facilitate the transition from slavery to freedom for African Americans. When Johnson unexpectedly vetoed these bills, Congress overrode his objections. The first time in American history that Congress had passed significant legislation after a presidential veto, this confrontation marked the outbreak of open hostilities between Johnson and the Republicans in Congress. Johnson attacked Republicans, especially the radical members, in a highly publicized speaking tour and urged Southern states not to ratify the proposed Fourteenth Amendment. Congress responded by reducing the size of the Supreme Court to prevent Johnson from filling vacancies and by passing a Tenure of Office Act that required the president to seek congressional approval before he appointed or removed cabinet members. When Johnson tested the restriction by firing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, a supporter of the congressional radicals, the House of Representatives impeached him in the spring of 1868. Although the vote acquitting the president showed that he had come within a single vote of removal from office, several Republican moderates had expressed a willingness to block the impeachment process because they were wary of a triumph for the radical wing of the party and because they were satisfied by reassurances that he would no longer try to undermine Republican policy.
Radical Reconstruction. The extension of the Freedmen’s Bureau and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 were preludes to adoption of the principal framework for congressional policy, the Military Reconstruction Act of 2 March 1867. This legislation divided the former Confederacy into five military districts until each state held a constitutional convention. To obtain read-mission to the Union, the states were required to provide for black male suffrage and to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment. One important guide to the ideas underlying this Reconstruction program was the emphasis on the guarantee of suffrage and the absence of any provision for redistribution of land. In part the failure of land redistribution reflected the sanctity of property rights in American thought, but the Republican priorities also expressed a judgment about the relative importance of political and economic power. Representative James M. Ashley of Ohio declared that “if I were a black man, with the chains just stricken from my limbs… and you should offer me the ballot, or a cabin and forty acres of cotton land, I would take the ballot.” Republicans called for the elimination of legal barriers that prevented African Americans from participating in public life on an equal footing with whites, and the Fourteenth Amendment provided for a strengthening of the federal government to enforce this political equality and to provide equal opportunity for economic advancement. The radicalism of conservative Republicans did not envision a society divided into sharply defined, antagonistic classes by the ownership of property.
Southern Political Leadership. The Republican governments that emerged in the South during Reconstruction drew on several different bases of support. By far the most important was the enfranchised freedmen. African Americans comprised a majority of the population in South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana; almost half of the population in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida; approximately 40 percent of the population in Virginia and North Carolina; and about one-quarter of the population in Arkansas and Texas. African Americans not only provided the core of votes for the Republican Party but also some of its most important leaders, including Hiram R. Revels and Blanche K. Bruce of Mississippi, both of whom served in the United States Senate; Robert B. Elliott and Robert Smalls of South Carolina, who served in the House of Representatives; and P. B. S. Pinchback, who became governor of Louisiana. Reconstruction could not be sustained without white support as well, which the Democratic opponents of reform divided into two groups. The more frequently excoriated were settlers
from the North, derided as “carpetbaggers” because they supposedly brought with them no more than the contents of a small suitcase made from old carpet and sought to make their fortune by corruptly exploiting the South. In fact, transplanted Northerners varied widely in background and motives and included such thoughtful newcomers as Albion Tourgée, who drew on his experiences in North Carolina in his novel A FooFs Errand (1879). The bulk of white supporters were native Southerners, whom Democrats preferred to pretend did not exist but acknowledged when necessary as “scalawags,” a term for low-grade livestock. These Republicans were particularly concentrated in the hill country that in many states had long fought political domination by the plantation districts. Other scalawags were planters or entrepreneurs, particularly former Whigs who felt more at home in the Republican than in the Democratic Party. Democratic hatred for scalawags is well illustrated by the postwar career of Gen. James Longstreet, one of the leading commanders in the Confederate army. To most Southerners his military record could not overcome his lapse into Republicanism, and he became the highest-ranking figure not to be honored by a monument when he died.
Republican Achievement. For the constitutional conventions required by Congress and the Republican leaders that came into power under the new governments, the chief priority was the establishment of public school systems. Their efforts in this direction established a principle of state responsibility for education that promised to transform the South. More controversial were attempts to make the new public schools racially integrated, a point of overlap between the emphasis on education and the attention of Republican legislatures to civil rights issues. Reconstruction governments enacted a variety of antidiscrimination laws governing access to railroads, theaters, and other public accommodations, but many of these would remain unenforced from the outset, and almost all would be displaced with the hardening of segregation at the end of the century. Republicans in the South also sought strenuously to promote economic development, especially through aid to railroad construction. The rail lines running through the region multiplied rapidly, but as in the Midwest, the dream of general prosperity through public investment in transportation usually proved an illusion. The promotion of railroads in the end undercut Republican governments because many associated them with the taxes necessary to pay unsuccessful bonds, the corruption that accompanied railroad construction everywhere in the country, and the loss of independence felt by hill-country farmers as they became enmeshed in wider commercial markets.
Eric Anderson and Alfred A. Moss Jr., eds., The Facts of Reconstruction: Essays in Honor of John Hope Franklin (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1991);
Michael Les Benedict, A Compromise of Principle: Congressional Republicans and Reconstruction, 1863–1869 (New York: Norton, 1974);
Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877 (New York: Harper & Row, 1988).
"Reconstruction." American Eras. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/reconstruction
"Reconstruction." American Eras. . Retrieved February 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/reconstruction
Reconstruction, 1865–77, in U.S. history, the period of readjustment following the Civil War. At the end of the Civil War, the defeated South was a ruined land. The physical destruction wrought by the invading Union forces was enormous, and the old social and economic order founded on slavery had collapsed completely, with nothing to replace it. The 11 Confederate states somehow had to be restored to their positions in the Union and provided with loyal governments, and the role of the emancipated slaves in Southern society had to be defined.
Even before the war ended, President Lincoln began the task of restoration. Motivated by a desire to build a strong Republican party in the South and to end the bitterness engendered by war, he issued (Dec. 8, 1863) a proclamation of amnesty and reconstruction for those areas of the Confederacy occupied by Union armies. It offered pardon, with certain exceptions, to any Confederate who would swear to support the Constitution and the Union. Once a group in any conquered state equal in number to one tenth of that state's total vote in the presidential election of 1860 took the prescribed oath and organized a government that abolished slavery, he would grant that government executive recognition.
Lincoln's plan aroused the sharp opposition of the radicals in Congress, who believed it would simply restore to power the old planter aristocracy. They passed (July, 1864) the Wade-Davis Bill, which required 50% of a state's male voters to take an "ironclad" oath that they had never voluntarily supported the Confederacy. Lincoln's pocket veto kept the Wade-Davis Bill from becoming law, and he implemented his own plan. By the end of the war it had been tried, not too successfully, in Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Virginia. Congress, however, refused to seat the Senators and Representatives elected from those states, and by the time of Lincoln's assassination the President and Congress were at a stalemate.
Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson, at first pleased the radicals by publicly attacking the planter aristocracy and insisting that the rebellion must be punished. His amnesty proclamation (May 29, 1865) was more severe than Lincoln's; it disenfranchised all former military and civil officers of the Confederacy and all those who owned property worth $20,000 or more and made their estates liable to confiscation. The obvious intent was to shift political control in the South from the old planter aristocracy to the small farmers and artisans, and it promised to accomplish a revolution in Southern society.
With Congress in adjournment from April to Dec., 1865, Johnson put his plan into operation. Under provisional governors appointed by him, the Southern states held conventions that voided or repealed their ordinances of secession, abolished slavery, and (except South Carolina) repudiated Confederate debts. Their newly elected legislatures (except Mississippi) ratified the Thirteenth Amendment guaranteeing freedom for blacks. By the end of 1865 every ex-Confederate state except Texas had reestablished civil government.
The control of white over black, however, seemed to be restored, as each of the newly elected state legislatures enacted statutes severely limiting the freedom and rights of the blacks. These laws, known as black codes, restricted the ability of blacks to own land and to work as free laborers and denied them most of the civil and political rights enjoyed by whites. Many of the offices in the new governments, moreover, were won by disenfranchised Confederate leaders, and the President, rather than ordering new elections, granted pardons on a large scale.
Early Congressional Legislation
An outraged Northern public believed that the fruits of victory were being lost by Johnson's lenient policy. When Congress convened (Dec. 4, 1865) it refused to seat the Southern representatives. Johnson responded by publicly attacking Republican leaders and vetoing their Reconstruction measures. His tactics drove the moderates into the radical camp. The Civil Rights Act (Apr. 9, 1866), designed to protect African Americans from legislation such as the black codes, and the Freedmen's Bureau Bill (July 16), extending the life of that organization (see Freedmen's Bureau), were both passed over Johnson's veto. Doubts as to the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act led the radicals to incorporate (June, 1866) most of its provisions in the Fourteenth Amendment (ratified 1868).
The newly created Joint Committee on Reconstruction reported (Apr. 28, 1866) that the ex-Confederate states were in a state of civil disorder, and hence, had not held valid elections. It also maintained that Reconstruction was a congressional, not an executive, function. The radicals solidified their position by winning the elections of 1866. When every Southern state (except Tennessee) refused to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment and protect the rights of its black citizens, the stage was set for more severe measures.
The Reconstruction Acts
On Mar. 2, 1867, Congress enacted the Reconstruction Act, which, supplemented later by three related acts, divided the South (except Tennessee) into five military districts in which the authority of the army commander was supreme. Johnson continued to oppose congressional policy, and when he insisted on the removal of the radical Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, in defiance of the Tenure of Office Act, the House impeached him (Feb., 1868). The radicals in the Senate fell one vote short of convicting him (May), but by this time Johnson's program had been effectively scuttled.
Under the terms of the Reconstruction Acts, new state constitutions were written in the South. By Aug., 1868, six states (Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida) had been readmitted to the Union, having ratified the Fourteenth Amendment as required by the first Reconstruction Act. The four remaining unreconstructed states—Virginia, Mississippi, Texas, and Georgia—were readmitted in 1870 after ratifying the Fourteenth Amendment as well as the Fifteenth Amendment, which guaranteed the black man's right to vote.
The Radical Republican Governments in the South
The radical Republican governments in the South attempted to deal constructively with the problems left by the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. Led by so-called carpetbaggers (Northerners who settled in the South) and scalawags (Southern whites in the Republican party) and freedmen, they began to rebuild the Southern economy and society. Agricultural production was restored, roads rebuilt, a more equitable tax system adopted, and schooling extended to blacks and poor whites. The freedmen's civil and political rights were guaranteed, and blacks were able to participate in the political and economic life of the South as full citizens for the first time.
The bitterness engendered by the Civil War remained, however, and most Southern whites objected strongly to the former slaves' new role in society. Organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan arose. Their acts of violence kept African Americans and white Republicans from voting, and gradually the radical Republican governments were overthrown. Their collapse was hastened by the death of the old radical leaders in Congress, such as Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner, and by the revelation of internal corruption in the radical Republican governments; the Grant administration was compelled to lessen its support of them because of growing criticism in the North of corruption in the federal government itself.
By 1876 only Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana remained under Republican domination. The Republican presidential candidate that year, Rutherford B. Hayes, promised to alleviate conditions in the South, but the feeling there had already led to the formation of the "solid South" in support of his Democratic opponent, Samuel J. Tilden. In those three states the presidential contest was the occasion for a determined effort to throw off Republican rule, and on their electoral votes (and on one disputed electoral vote in Oregon) hung the fate of the famous disputed election of 1876. It is practically certain that at least one of the three gave a majority, and thus the presidency, to Tilden, but two sets of returns were sent in from each of the three states. A specially constituted electoral commission (composed of eight Republicans and seven Democrats) accepted the Republican returns, and Hayes was given the presidency.
Reconstruction officially ended as all federal troops were withdrawn from the South. White rule was restored, and black people were over time deprived of many civil and political rights and their economic position remained depressed. The radicals' hopes for a basic reordering of the social and economic structure of the South, beyond the abolition of slavery, died. The results, instead, were the one-party "solid South" and increased racial bitterness. The nearly complete elimination in the lengthy post-Reconstruction years (late 1870s to early 1950s) of the advances made by African Americans during Reconstruction has led many to argue that it had few ramifications, but others have countered that the ideal of racial equality formed during Reconstruction set an important goal that the country is still striving to reach.
Bibliography and Historical Interpretation
The literature on the Reconstruction is extensive and has shown sharp changes in interpretation. The first major historical writing on the period was done early in the 20th cent. It reflected the rising tide of nationalism that followed the Spanish-American War and incorporated the then current assumptions of black racial inferiority. Reconstruction was portrayed as a tragic era during which vindictive, scheming, radical Republicans imposed harsh military rule on a vanquished South and supported corrupt state governments dominated by unscrupulous carpetbaggers, scalawags, and uneducated freedmen. Typical examples of this school of historiography are J. W. Burgess, Reconstruction and the Constitution (1902, repr. 1970); W. A. Dunning. Reconstruction, Political and Economic (1907, repr. 1962); W. L. Fleming, The Sequel of Appomattox (1919, repr. 1921); C. G. Bowers, The Tragic Era (1929, repr. 1962); and E. M. Coulter, The South during Reconstruction (1947).
The first major attack upon this interpretation came from W. E. B. Du Bois in Black Reconstruction (1935, repr. 1969). It stimulated a complete rethinking of the meaning of Reconstruction. The old Burgess-Dunning school of thought was revised and to a large extent discredited. The moral idealism of the radicals has been recognized and their sincere concern for the rights of the freedmen applauded. Historians now agree that the radical state governments were no more corrupt than their predecessors and successors, and that they made notable contributions toward restoring a devastated Southern economy, protecting the rights of freedmen, and extending public education to whites and blacks alike.
Some of the best examples of revisionist writing are C. V. Woodward, Reunion and Reaction (2d ed. 1956, repr. 1966); J. H. Franklin, Reconstruction (1961); W. R. Brock, An American Crisis (1963); K. M. Stampp, The Era of Reconstruction (1965); J. P. Shenton, ed., The Reconstruction (1963); K. M. Stampp and L. F. Litwack, ed., Reconstruction: An Anthology of Revisionist Writings (1969); R. Cruden, The Negro in Reconstruction (1969); H. L. Trefousse, Reconstruction: America's First Effort at Racial Democracy (1971); E. L. Thornbrough, comp., Black Reconstructionists (1972); and L. and J. H. Cox, Reconstruction, the Negro, and the New South (1973). See also E. L. McKitrick, Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction (1960, repr. 1988); R. N. Current, Those Terrible Carpetbaggers: A Reinterpretation (1989); E. Foner, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877 (1988) and Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction (2005); P. Dray, Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction through the Lives of the First Black Congressmen (2008); A. C. Guelzo, Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction (2012); D. R. Egerton, The Wars of Reconstruction (2014).
"Reconstruction." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/reconstruction
"Reconstruction." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved February 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/reconstruction
The term Reconstruction refers to the efforts made in the United States between 1865 and 1877 to restructure the political, legal, and economic systems in the states that had seceded from the Union. The u.s. civil war (1861–65) ended slavery, but it left unanswered how the 11 Southern states would conduct their internal affairs after readmission to the Union. Though some legal protections for newly freed slaves were incorporated into the Constitution by the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, by 1877, conservative Southern whites had reclaimed power and had begun to disenfranchise blacks.
abraham lincoln took the first steps toward Reconstruction in 1863 when he announced a post-war plan for the Southern states. Under these terms, a state would have to renounce slavery and agree to comply with the Constitution. The states of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee agreed to these conditions and asked that its senators and representatives be readmitted to Congress. Radical Republicans in Congress objected to this plan, contending that it would do nothing to change the Southern social system. They introduced a tougher bill that Lincoln vetoed, which left the state of Reconstruction uncertain at the time of Lincoln's assassination. The Freedmen's Bureau was established as a social welfare agency for the newly freed slaves, but little else was agreed upon. Lincoln's successor, President andrew johnson, came from Tennessee. As governor, he had championed his state's readmission to the Union under Lincoln's terms. As president, he revealed a hostility to the use of federal power to change the Southern way of life, in part because he wanted to rebuild the democratic party and ensure his election in 1868.
Radical Republicans became incensed when Johnson issued a general pardon for most Confederates and then issued proclamations that permitted the Southern states to rejoin the Union after holding a constitutional convention and agreeing to three conditions: repeal of the secession laws, repudiation of the Confederate debt, and ratification of the thirteenth amendment, which ended slavery in the United States. However, Johnson did not require the states to permit blacks to vote. In 1866, Southern whites took back the reins of government and proceeded to pass black codes, which restricted the freedoms of the newly freed slaves. Racial segregation was established, blacks were barred from serving on juries and as appearing as witnesses, and unemployed blacks were arrested and then auctioned off to employers to pay their fines.
In 1866, Congress passed the fourteenth amendment, which extended due process and equal protection rights to all persons and barred states from violating these rights. Over time, this amendment would be used to apply most of the bill of rights to the states, but, during the Reconstruction period, it was used as the basis of additional statutes that imposed federal control over the Southern states. In 1867, the Radical Republicans passed the First Reconstruction Act; three other acts would later be passed by Congress to further define the scope of Reconstruction. These acts abolished the Southern government that Johnson had authorized, placed the South back under military control, announced new state constitutional conventions, mandated that blacks be allowed to vote, and prevented former Confederate leaders from serving as public officials. By mid-1868, Congress readmitted representatives from six states, and then the remainder complied with the act's terms and were readmitted in 1870.
With these new constitutions in place, state and local elections took place. Though some blacks were elected to public office, most officeholders were white. However, most Southern whites opposed these governments and the idea of black equality. This prevalent attitude led to vigilantism and terrorism by various groups, including the ku klux klan (KKK). These groups used terror to discourage blacks from asserting their political rights and frighten whites who collaborated with the new governments. Congress sought unsuccessfully to impeach President Johnson, but Radical Republicans assumed conditions would improve with the election of General ulysses s. grant to the presidency in 1868.
Grant disappointed supporters of Reconstruction over the ensuing eight years. Though Congress passed and the states ratified the fifteenth amendment in 1870, it had very little impact in the South. The amendment prohibited voting discrimination based on race, but blacks were intimidated by the KKK and local employers and stayed away from the polls. Congress proceeded to pass three Force Acts in 1870 and 1871, wide-ranging criminal and civil laws that sought to curb vigilantism. Several parts of these Force Acts remain in effect, including the civil rights tort law 42 U.S.C.A. section 1983. These laws had some effect, but they required federal officers to enforce them. The desire of Northerners to continue this work had begun to ebb, and, by the end of Grant's term in 1877, it became apparent that federal efforts were grinding to a halt.
The 1876 presidential race between Republican rutherford b. hayes and Democrat samuel tilden ended in an electoral college deadlock due to disputed electors from Florida and Oregon. To avoid a constitutional crisis, a commission was appointed to review the contested states and decide on a winner. In the end, the Democrats allowed Hayes to be declared the winner in exchange for a promise that Hayes would withdraw all federal troops and give Democrats a portion of the patronage rights to federal jobs.
The withdrawal of the troops symbolized the end of Reconstruction, but an earlier Supreme Court case had made clear that the legal system would resist a broad reading of the Fourteenth Amendment. In the slaughterhouse cases, 83 U.S. 36, 21 L.Ed. 394 (1873), the Supreme Court read the amendment's privileges and immunities clause virtually out of the Constitution. The Court effectively closed the door on the concept of privileges and immunities as an enforcement tool against state laws that restricted individual civil rights. On a 5–4 vote, the Court interpreted the clause as protecting only rights of national citizenship from the actions of the state government. This restrictive reading robbed the Privileges and Immunities Clause of any constitutional significance.
Conservative white Democrats reasserted their authority in 1877 and began to disenfranchise blacks again. They enacted "Jim Crow" segregation laws that directly challenged the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court removed the last impediment to these efforts in the civil rights cases, 109 U.S. 3, 3 S.Ct. 18, 27 L.Ed. 835 (1883). The Court invalidated the civil rights act of 1875, the last piece of Reconstruction legislation. This act proclaimed "the equality of all men before the law," and promised to "mete out equal and exact justice" to persons of every "race, color, or persuasion" in public or private accommodations. The law sought to prohibit racial segregation of trains, trolleys, theaters, hotels, restaurants, and other places that are open to the public. The Supreme Court struck down the act, finding that the Fourteenth Amendment only prohibited official, state-sponsored discrimination. The Fourteenth Amendment could not reach discrimination practiced by privately owned places of public accommodation. This Fourteenth Amendment "state action" requirement remains a central tenet of modern civil rights law. The Court's holding meant that racial segregation could be imposed by private businesses. More troubling was the Court's belief, less than 20 years after the conclusion of the Civil War, that the time for concerns about equal treatment for blacks was over. The Court stated that blacks should no longer be "special favorite[s] of the law."
Reconstruction has come to be regarded as a missed opportunity for U.S. society. Many of the issues that concerned political leaders of that period returned a hundred years later in the modern civil rights movement. The Fourteenth Amendment would be revivified by the Supreme Court, and surviving parts of the Force Acts would be used again.
Collier, Christopher. 2000. Reconstruction and the Rise of Jim Crow, 1864–1896. New York: Benchmark Books.
Foner, Eric. 2002. Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877. New York: Perennial.
Peacock, Judith. 2003. Reconstruction: Rebuilding after the Civil War. Mankato, Minn.: Bridgestone Books.
"Reconstruction." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/reconstruction
"Reconstruction." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Retrieved February 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/reconstruction
Included in this section are the following entries with the primary source documents listed below in italics.
Reconstruction and the Rise of Jim Crow
Adapted from essays by Marcy Sacks, Albion College/Hamilton College
Excerpt from The Southby J. T. Trowbridge Excerpt from The South since the Warby Sidney Andrews
African Americans in Political Office
Adapted from essays by Adam Green, Yale University
Senator Blanche K. Bruce, Senator from Mississippi, and the Fifteenth Amendment
Thurgood Marshall's Speech before the NAACP Wartime Conference
African Americans on the Frontier
Adapted from essays by Stacy Shorter
The Autobiography of Nat Love, Cowboy
John Mercer Langston Speaks on the Mass Exodus of African Americans from the South
African American Newspapers and Periodicals
Adapted from essays by Adam Green, Yale University, and Jonathan Holloway, Yale University
"The Case Stated" and "Lynch Law Statistics" by Ida B. Wells-Barnett
Marcus Garvey and the "Africa for Africans" Movement
Reconstruction was to be the period in which the institution of slavery and its effects on African Americans and the nation could begin to be reversed. But the roots that ran below the surface of the slave institution ran deep.Generations of Africans had been brought to the United States and had been stripped of their names and identities. And what if their names and identities had not been stripped away? Would it have made any difference? The story of the failed Reconstruction and the many difficult decades that followed is essentially the beginnings of the process of integration—an integration between peoples of African cultural origins and peoples from a hodgepodge of European backgrounds. Indeed, as we are just beginning at the start of the twenty-first century to live in a United States where these two cultures have had some extended history side by side, and where some of the difficult processes of integration have begun to be achieved, we are realizing the extent to which this meeting of two cultures is the story of America.
Most of the newly emancipated slaves did not have the wherewithal, the finances, or the skills to simply head out into the young nation. Many felt fortunate to stay on the plantations where they had been born and raised and to continue working there. Others headed north to such cities as New York, Boston, and Chicago. Others set out for the expanding West. In any case, just as African Americans had played a major role in the building of the East and the South over the course of the first century of American life, a new chapter was beginning in which black Americans would again be a part of battles to tame the land, fish the seas, and build up the cities. This has until even recently, however, not necessarily been the version of history told in the United States.
The decades that followed the close of the Civil War saw a fascinating and perversely complex weave of laws, mores, and social codes put in place to assure that African Americans continued to live an existence that had far more in common with their recent bondage than with the inalienable rights to freedom and the pursuit of happiness described by the founding fathers. The second half of the nineteenth century would see the black codes and Jim Crow come to be the spoken—or unspoken—norms of African American life. It is a peculiar feature of the post-slavery years of the final decades of the nineteenth century that racism and discriminatory practices rather than diminishing, were taken to a new level. There is a sort of rage and hysteria that marks the phase of black-white relations that developed between 1870 and as late as the 1930s or 1940s. Perhaps it was a feature of the institutional nature of the former discrimination that made it, well, better, or at least not possessed with the kind of white-knuckled fear that grew in the post-Reconstruction years. It is no coincidence that the first Ku Klux Klan meetings were held in the decades immediately following emancipation. There was from the 1860s until far into the twentieth century a steadily increasing number of lynchings each year.
In Europe, the grand experiment of the Enlightenment had run into the roadblock of the French Revolution and the guillotine. With the French Revolution, the American fight for independence, and the writing of the U.S. Constitution, the world saw the birth of many of the democratic principles which are still promoted to this day. Thomas Jefferson and other leading intellectuals in the United States closely followed all of these developments. The world was being discovered and plundered; colonization was ever on the rise. Still, as distasteful as the European ideas of the "noble savage" were, in the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau there was ardent talk of the nobility of all beings. There were fervent, even sincere words to the effect that the Europeans had much to learn from these peoples of color. But within a few short years that kind of open expansiveness would be a distant memory. It was as if a new sort of hatred was about to be born. The crimes to date had been ones of greed, financial opportunity, a weakness of Christian character—but the new atmosphere would be one in which all innocence was lost. The sentiment expressed toward people of color—the savages, the blacks, the heretics—was evolving, becoming poisonous and tinged with fear.
Charles Darwin and his theories of natural selection both rocked the European world and put it on edge. Nationalism, colonialism, science—these were the pillars that the modernizing world was to be built upon. Before the close of the nineteenth century, scientist-sociologist-philosophers such as Georges Cuvier had composed treatises on the characteristics of a national identity based on a pseudoscience of skull and genital measurements. Joseph-Arthur de Gobineau published his tripartied system of the races in which he explained for the scholarly and scientific communities the inherent superiority of the white race, followed by the yellow race, and finally the black race at the bottom. Gobineau, as it turned out, was a favorite read for the German composer Richard Wagner, who in turn wrote extensively on the scourge of the "outsider" Jew in European society. The young Adolf Hitler consumed all of the above when formulating his theories for the "final solution" and a "cleansed" society free of blacks, Jews, and homosexuals.
Meanwhile in the United States, the Industrial Revolution and the great immigrant boom that fueled the building of an empire were just about to begin. In the year 1900, more than 90 percent of African Americans were still in eight southern states, the vast majority of those in the Deep South. In the three-and-a-half decades that followed the Civil War, life for black Americans had not changed from the conditions during slavery—rather, it had grown worse. It would take the Great Migrations out of the South to even get the ball rolling.ﾀﾀ
The Origin of Jim Crow
The term Jim Crow came into use prior to the Civil War when minstrel shows began featuring a character of the same name who would dance and sing in an unflattering fashion. The white performers who portrayed Jim Crow in blackface perpetuated stereotypes and unwittingly provided the name Jim Crow to a body of laws designed to discriminate against African Americans.
"Reconstruction." African-American Years: Chronologies of American History and Experience. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/reconstruction-1
"Reconstruction." African-American Years: Chronologies of American History and Experience. . Retrieved February 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/reconstruction-1
Garden History, xxiii/1 (Summer 1995), 91–112;
Journal of Garden History, viii/2&3 (Apr.–Sept. 1988), whole issue
"reconstruction." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/reconstruction
"reconstruction." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Retrieved February 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/reconstruction
"Reconstruction." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/reconstruction
"Reconstruction." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved February 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/reconstruction
"Reconstruction." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/reconstruction
"Reconstruction." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved February 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/reconstruction
Reconstruction (1865–1877) was one of our most controversial political eras. It followed the American Civil War (1861–1865), the bloodiest war in U.S. history, and saw the South's transformation from a slave to a free society. The U.S. government had to decide how to reintegrate the Confederate states into the union and how to assimilate almost four million freed slaves into the war-torn and hostile society of the South. Its economy was in shambles at the end of the Civil War, with manufacturing and transportation systems in disarray, banks insolvent, and Confederate currency worthless. The agricultural labor pool of slaves, who represented the most valuable asset that the South had possessed prior to the war—more valuable even than all the land in the South, was no longer legally available and the planters had little on-hand cash to pay wages. The freed slaves faced destitution.
President Abraham Lincoln (1861–1865) was anxious to get the Confederate states back into the union. As early as December 1863 he had issued a "Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction" which detailed a lenient approach that he felt would receive wide acceptance in the South and hasten reunion of the eleven Confederate states. Prompted by considerations of how to smooth over the process of reunification of the nation, as well as by long-term political considerations for himself and the newly founded Republican Party, Lincoln's Reconstruction plan was called the "10 percent plan." Only ten percent of a state's electorate who had voted in 1860 had to take an oath of allegiance to the United States before its citizens could be granted pardons, their property restored, and their state governments recognized. Lincoln's plan did not include much in the way of provisions for post-war recovery of the South or safe-guards to protect the newly freed slaves from their former masters.
In July of 1864 Congress adopted a compromise Reconstruction plan which increased the requirements for reentry of the Southern states into the Union. Lincoln, however, vetoed this Wade-Davis bill, which proposed raising the 10 percent voter oath requirement to 50 percent and limiting participation of former Southern leaders in state constitutional conventions. Realizing that few safeguards existed to protect the new found liberty of former slaves, Congress also established the Freedmen's Bureau in 1865 to help feed, protect, and educate them.
Fearing that rebel leaders would regain control of the South, some "Radical Republicans" in Congress (Congressmen who advocated strong measures against the former Confederacy) sought to grant voting rights to former slaves and even spoke of confiscating the wealthy Southern planters' property. A precedent existed for this land reform idea: in a few cases during the war union troops had allowed former slaves to occupy and farm the plantations of rebel planters, including the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. A rumor arose among the former slaves that the federal government was going to redistribute the land and give each slave family "forty acres and a mule."
But after the surrender of the southern armies and in the wake of the uncertainty that accompanied Lincoln's assassination in April 1865, a dispute arose between Lincoln's successor, former Vice President Andrew Johnson, and the Radical Republicans in Congress. Johnson, a small farmer and slave owner from Tennessee, believed blacks were inferior and envisioned a South economically dominated by white farmers holding property redistributed from wealthy planter's land. He seemed to believe that a conspiracy existed between the large plantation owners and the slaves against the small white farmers. Johnson adopted contradictory policies—on the one hand formally declaring that the Confederate military leadership would be executed and that slave holders would be denied the vote, and on the other, pardoning an unending line of petitioners from the southern planter class who flattered him and received full exoneration.
During this period of confusion, the southern political elite adopted make-shift constitutions that abolished slavery and elected the surviving members of the pre-war political elite to Congress. At the same time, however, in their own state legislatures the former planter aristocracy was passing "black codes" that re-subjugated the former slaves to conditions that approximated slavery. Ex-slaves could were restricted to farming jobs, they could be rounded up, charged with vagrancy, and put to work without compensation. They had to carry passes. They lived under curfew laws. Major race riots instigated by whites broke out in 1866 in Memphis and New Orleans with blacks receiving little protection from local law authorities. As these conditions became known in the first months after the southern surrender, the Radical Republicans successfully led a movement to exclude the southern congressmen who were being elected and sent to serve in Congress. A prolonged struggle erupted between the executive and legislative branches of the federal government pitting the president and his conservative program of restoring pre-Civil War conditions in the South against the Radical demands for extensive social and political change in the South.
Angered by the South's persistent and violent resistance to restructuring and disappointed with Johnson's views, Congress adopted a Radical Reconstruction strategy. First, over Johnson's veto, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 which recognized blacks as citizens and guaranteed equal protection under the law. Congress included the Act's key provisions in the Fourteenth Amendment, which was approved in 1866 despite rejection by most Southern states. The amendment granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States and directed that states could not deprive citizens of due process of law and equal protection of the laws. Next came the Reconstruction Acts between 1866 and 1868, also over Johnson's veto. The acts firmly established military control over the South with the eleven Southern states divided into five military districts. State governments that were recognized under Lincoln and Johnson were thrown out and the black codes eliminated. A Major General controlled each district by holding extensive authority over state officials. Between 1868 and 1870 all states were readmitted to the Union with new governments that were controlled by blacks, carpetbaggers (Northerners who came to the South to carry out Reconstruction programs), and scalawags (Southern collaborators). Though violence temporarily ceased and a number of postwar recovery measures were instituted (including a lasting public school system for both races), most Southerners viewed the governments as artificially contrived.
In 1870 the Fifteenth Amendment prohibited states from restricting voting rights on the basis of race. Congress followed with a series of enforcement acts until 1871. However, Northern support for Reconstruction measures began to fade in the 1870s as a national economic recession captured attention. President Rutherford B. Hayes (1877–1881) withdrew the last federal troops in 1877 and Southern states once again assumed full control. Racism flourished. State Jim Crow laws established a racial caste system in the South during the last years of the nineteenth century. Some historians attributed the failure of Reconstruction to the failure to redistribute southern lands to poor farmers, both black and white. In any case, a new labor system involving sharecropping and crop liens replaced slavery. Black families farmed assigned portions of plantations in return for a share of the crop and necessary food and supplies. The new system, in which the new Southern ruling class of planters and merchants were subservient to Northern financiers, did not reestablish the prosperity seen before the war.
See also: Civil War (Economic Impact of), Confederate Dollar, Fourteenth Amendment, Freedman's Bureau, Jim Crow Laws, Sharecropping
Belz, Herman. Abraham Lincoln, Constitutionalism, and Equal Rights in the Civil War Era. New York: Fordham University Press, 1998.
Franklin, John Hope. Reconstruction After the Civil War. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.
Harris, William C. With Charity for All: Lincoln and the Restoration of the Union. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1997.
Kennedy, Stetson. After Appomattox: How the South Won the War. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 1995.
Schmidt, James D. Free to Work: Labor Law, Emancipation, and Reconstruction, 1815–1880. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1998.
Simpson, Brooks D. The Reconstruction Presidents. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1998.
in the end . . . the vast majority of southern blacks remained propertyless and poor. but exactly why the south, and especially its black population, suffered from dire poverty and economic retardation in the decades following the civil war is a matter of much dispute.
eric foner, american heritage, october/november 1983
"Reconstruction." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/reconstruction-0
"Reconstruction." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Retrieved February 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/reconstruction-0