Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Inevitable Death of Reconstruction by the South

Reconstruction was going to be killed sooner or latter and one way or another. The election of 1876 would be an election that changed the course of our nation for a 100 years to come. The election was between Rutherford B Hayes, the republican candidate and eventually the winner, against Samuel J Tilden, the democratic candidate. Tilden won the popular vote and Hayes won the electoral vote, after three states were given to him. The three states were Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana; this was the Compromise of 1877. The Democratic Party gave Hayes the 20 electoral votes, and in return the Republican party promised to withdraw troop from the South. Prior to the election, America was in a state of Reconstruction. This period occurred after the Civil War from 1865- 1877; many positive changes took place during this time, but after the election it took a turn for the worst. Reconstruction took place because America had to rebuild the south from the devastation of the war and integrate the new free blacks into their society. Congress passed the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendment in order to make this transition smoother. The 13th Amendment ended slavery, the 14th gave black Americans citizenship and civil right, and the 15th made it illegal to deny someone their right to vote based on race. Although there were some groups that still resented Freedmen and their new rights. The Ku Klux Klan is a white supremacist group that opposed Reconstruction and rights for freedmen. Meanwhile, there were groups that supported Freedmen and their right to vote, such as Carpetbaggers and Scalawags. Carpetbaggers were white northerners that went south to help Freedmen. Scalawags were white southerners that supported Freedmen and Carpetbaggers.  Another group that strongly supported Freedmen in their own remark were Radical Republicans. They were northern Republican Congressmen that supported African-American citizenship and they wanted punishment for the Confederates. It's important to know the reasons why Reconstructed ended and who was responsible for it. When slavery was abolished there were many people who remained racists against blacks and were not happy about their freedom. Many different groups in different parts of the country took actions that would eventually result in the end of the Reconstruction period. Although both the North and the South played a role in ending Reconstruction, the South would have killed it eventually if they continued to keep terrorizing anyone that advocated Reconstruction in the South. 

The South played a major role in ending Reconstruction. The Ku Klux Klan was the biggest threat to Freedmen, Scalawags, and Carpetbaggers. They were a presistent group that was ruthless in their methods of terrorizing anyone who wasn't with their cause. These white supremesist groups grew more and more popular and powerful in the south. With this power they were able to scare anyone and everyone that protected blacks. Albion Tourgee a white northern soilder, became a judge in North Carolina after the Civil War. He is wrote this letter to Senator Joseph Carter Abbott (Doc A). A State Senator was stabbed 5 or 6 times by Ku Klux Klan members, Senator Joseph Stevens (R) was attacked in the Grand Jury Room in the court house. Tourgee believed that he is going to be killed next by the KKK. He saw what they did to the Republican Senator and is scared that it will happen to him. The Ku Klux Klan had enough power in the South to walk into a Grand Jury Room and kill a white politician. White supremacy and violence in the south resulted in the ending of reconstruction. Republicans in the south and Freedmen were scared and so they had to back off the white southerns, because if they didn't the KKK could kill them. Blacks must be more scared than the Republicans because if the KKK is powerful enough to kill a State Senator in a court house then they could do alot worse to Freedmen. Another example of the Ku Klux Klan's power in the south is Abrham Colbies testimony to a joint house and senate committee in 1872 (Doc B). He was a former slave who was elected to the Georgia State Legislator. He voted for a Radical Republican and the KKK whipped him and beat him, they wanted him to vote for democrats. The KKK would threat black voters to vote for the democratic party, they used fear tactics and scarred people into doing it. In the image provided by Haper's Weekly its easy to see that two white men are holding a gun to a black mans head and forcing him to vote for democrats. The KKK and the south killed reconstruction because they stopped blacks from participating in government. Overall the south and espcially the Ku Klux Klan ended reconstruction, they scarred everyone in the south with brute force and murder. Even if the North continued to be supportive of Reconstruction, the south would continue to be violant.

The North began to lose intrest and focus on the South and Reconstruction. Bigger and newer problems arose in the North that the government had to pay attention to. In The Americans it talks about how Presdent Grant was trying to get to the bottom of all the corroption within his administration and he was only paying attention to those problems and not the issues in the south (Doc C). The people in the north were also losing faith in the situation in the South. Reconstruction had been going on for 10 years so people began to care less and less, but the violence and problems in the south continued. The north might have began to give up on Reconstruction after ten years, but the South was the one that continued to reject and supress Freedmen. Although even the white northerns believed that blacks were not completely equal to them. The north helped get blacks freedom, citizenship, and the right to vote, but they didn't completely believe that they deserved to be in office. In this image that was the cover of Harper's Weekly, which was drawn by a white northern illustrates that the white population thought freedmen were not capable to run the government, because they were thought to be uneducated (Doc D). But whites did think they were capable to run their own lives and do their own thing. Most northers were anti slavery, but they didnt believe blacks were equal to whites. The North may have not continued to completely support Freedmen in the south, but they didn't directly do anything that harmed Freedmen. The South was the one that constantly harrassed and attacked Freedmen, they were the reason reconstruction was neccessary.

The South killed reconstruction by terrorizing and killing anyone and everyone that supported Freedmen. The Ku Klux Klan killed politicians and freedmen; they used fear tatics to scared many more people that supported blacks. Carpetbaggers were scarred of white supremesist groups, and they would return back to the north. Scalawags who were from the south would stop supporting blacks because they feared for their own lives. The south was the reason the north gave up their support for Freedmen; they didn't want to support blacks if it meant risking their own life. Also after ten years of supporting Reconstruction the north had other problems that they had to address. There was corruption in the President Grants administration and a winfall of problems to deal with. The South killed reconstruction by simply not accepting Freedmen and their civil rights. 

Document A: Albion Tourgee, Letter on Ku Klux Klan Activities. New York Tribune, May 1870.

Document B: Abrham Colbies testimony to a joint house and senate committee in 1872

Document C: Gerald Danzer, The Americans, McDougal Littel. Secondary source and a textbook. The image is from Harpers Weekly, 1876.

Document D: The cover of Harper's Weekly, March 14, 1876