As time passed, it became more and more obvious that the problems of the South were not being solved by harsh laws and continuing rancor against former Confederates . More- over, some Southern Radical state governments with prominent Af- rican-American officials appeared corrupt and inefficient . The nation was quickly tiring of the attempt to impose racial democracy and liberal values on the South with Union bay- onets . In May 1872, Congress passed a general Amnesty Act, restoring full political rights to all but about 500 former rebels .

Gradually Southern states began electing members of the Democratic Party into office, ousting carpet- bagger governments and intimidat- ing African Americans from voting or attempting to hold public office . By 1876 the Republicans remained in power in only three Southern states . As part of the bargaining that resolved the disputed presidential elections that year in favor of Ruth- erford B . Hayes, the Republicans promised to withdraw federal troops that had propped up the remaining Republican governments . In 1877




Hayes kept his promise, tacitly aban- doning federal responsibility for en- forcing blacks’ civil rights .

The South was still a region dev- astated by war, burdened by debt caused by misgovernment, and de- moralized by a decade of racial war- fare . Unfortunately, the pendulum of national racial policy swung from one extreme to the other . A feder- al government that had supported harsh penalties against Southern white leaders now tolerated new and humiliating kinds of discrimina- tion against African Americans . The last quarter of the 19th century saw a profusion of “Jim Crow” laws in Southern states that segregated pub- lic schools, forbade or limited Afri- can-American access to many public facilities such as parks, restaurants, and hotels, and denied most blacks the right to vote by imposing poll taxes and arbitrary literacy tests . “Jim Crow” is a term derived from a song in an 1828 minstrel show where a white man first performed in “blackface .”

Historians have tended to judge Reconstruction harshly, as a murky period of political conflict, corrup- tion, and regression that failed to achieve its original high-minded goals and collapsed into a sinkhole of virulent racism . Slaves were grant- ed freedom, but the North complete-

ly failed to address their economic needs . The Freedmen’s Bureau was unable to provide former slaves with political and economic oppor- tunity . Union military occupiers often could not even protect them from violence and intimidation . Indeed, federal army officers and agents of the Freedmen’s Bureau were often racists themselves . With- out economic resources of their own, many Southern African Americans were forced to become tenant farm- ers on land owned by their former masters, caught in a cycle of poverty that would continue well into the 20th century .

Reconstruction-era governments did make genuine gains in rebuild- ing Southern states devastated by the war, and in expanding public services, notably in establishing tax-supported, free public schools for African Americans and whites . However, recalcitrant Southerners seized upon instances of corruption (hardly unique to the South in this era) and exploited them to bring down radical regimes . The failure of Reconstruction meant that the struggle of African Americans for equality and freedom was deferred until the 20th century — when it would become a national, not just a Southern issue . 9


The controversies of the 1850s had destroyed the Whig Party, created the Republican Party, and divided the Democratic Party along regional lines. The Civil War demonstrated that the Whigs were gone beyond recall and the Republicans on the scene to stay. It also laid the basis for a reunited Democratic Party.

The Republicans could seamlessly replace the Whigs throughout the North and West because they were far more than a free-soil/antislavery force. Most of their leaders had started as Whigs and continued the Whig interest in federally assisted national development. The need to manage a war did not deter them from also enacting a protective tariff (1861) to foster American manufacturing, the Homestead Act (1862) to encourage Western settlement, the Morrill Act (1862) to establish “land grant” agricultural and techni- cal colleges, and a series of Pacific Railway Acts (1862-64) to underwrite a transcontinental railway line. These measures rallied support throughout the Union from groups to whom slavery was a secondary issue and ensured the party’s continuance as the latest manifestation of a political creed that had been advanced by Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay.

The war also laid the basis for Democratic reunification because Northern opposition to it centered in the Democratic Party. As might be expected from the party of “popular sovereignty,” some Democrats believed that full-scale war to reinstate the Union was unjustified. This group came to be known as the Peace Democrats. Their more extreme elements were called “Copperheads.”

Moreover, few Democrats, whether of the “war” or “peace” faction, believed the emancipation of the slaves was worth Northern blood. Opposition to emancipation had long been party policy. In 1862, for example, virtually every Democrat in Congress voted against eliminating slavery in the District of Columbia and prohibiting it in the territories.

Much of this opposition came from the working poor, particularly Irish and German Catholic immigrants, who feared a massive migration of newly freed African Americans to the North. They also resented the establish- ment of a military draft (March 1863) that disproportionately affected them. Race riots erupted in several Northern cities. The worst of these occurred in New York, July 13-16, 1863, precipitated by Democratic Governor Horatio Seymour’s condemnation of military conscription. Federal troops, who just days earlier had been engaged at Gettysburg, were sent to restore order.

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