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A narrative of why the reconstruction period in the united states failed

War weary and homesick, they would soon find that the life they knew prior to the war no longer existed. A shattered economy, social upheaval, and a new era of politics awaited them.

Many would struggle against these changes. In the few years it took to wage the war, thousands of people who once held positions of power, authority and influence found themselves in a state of poverty and politically and economically destitute. The formally enslaved freedmen and women would struggle as well. Trying to find their place in the new society, most African Americans briefly tasted freedom and citizenship for the first time.

They also experienced the more enduring backlash of southern white fear and anger. From 1865 until 1877, North Carolina underwent reconstruction as imposed by the victorious North.

Profound changes took place in the state as North Carolina once again found her place in the Union. More than 30,000 troops died, almost half from battle deaths and the rest from disease. Untold numbers were wounded or disabled by injury. There were human costs at home as well. With the majority of white men off fighting the war, the women struggled to maintain farms and families. The results often included impaired health and even death of the elderly and weak.

Economic costs were also staggering. Worthless currency, repudiated war debts, and few avenues for credit caused many individuals, institutions, and businesses to declare bankruptcy. During the war many colleges closed, factories shut down, and banks collapsed. Almost none were in any condition to re-open after the war. The end of the war brought a social revolution to North Carolina and to the entire South.

The destruction of the institution of slavery, and the caste system it entailed, resulted in an upheaval never before experienced in the state. Persons previously of wealth and affluence either lost their lands by confiscation or simply abandoned large amounts of land for lack of a labor force to cultivate it.

Newly freed slaves embarked on a journey to find their place in an ever-shifting society. Most had their freedom but little else. They, along with poor whites, fell into sharecropping on land the enslaved population had previously tended. Others migrated to refugee camps set up by the federal government to start their new lives as freedmen and women.

Most whites grudgingly agreed to give blacks rights that they had not previously possessed as enslaved property, but they did not agree to legal and social equality. He did not believe in a harsh punishment of southern leaders. He wanted a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery but did not support citizenship and suffrage for the newly freedmen and women. Congress, on the other hand, felt the South should be punished severely and that only those who swore an oath of loyalty that they had never opposed the Union should be allowed the rights of full citizenship.

Introducing Reconstruction

Lincoln knew that sectional strife led to the war, and he felt harsh treatment would only lead to more sectional strife. His assassination on April 14, 1865 at the hands of a southern partisan actor, John Wilkes Booth, added fuel to the issue.

At the end of the war, the political system in North Carolina was in shambles.

  1. Reconstruction radicalism, however, had its limits.
  2. Grant was reelected in 1872 in the most peaceful election of the period.
  3. The Legacy of the Civil War and Reconstruction in North Carolina While all of the political turmoil raged during the Reconstruction years, most North Carolinians simply tried to survive.
  4. In order to cultivate what land they retained, most resorted to a system of sharecropping. This requirement would ensure that freed slaves could participate in elections and government, while those white men, who had supported the Confederate cause, could not.

Both the state and local governments collapsed in early 1865. Before leaving the state, General Sherman left Gen. Schofield in charge of the state, with orders to maintain law and order.

Thus, North Carolina, like most of the south, came under military rule. It was under these circumstances that President Johnson took over the task of bringing the rebellious states back into the Union. He issued two proclamations on May 29, 1865. The first applied to all southern states, and the other applied to North Carolina.

The Amnesty Proclamation offered a pardon to all southerners, except those in positions of leadership and extreme wealth, provided they swore an oath of loyalty to the United States and the U.

It also allowed those who swore allegiance to retain all their property, except for slaves. The second proclamation appointed William W. Holden as the provisional governor of North Carolina. Johnson ordered Holden to call a state convention to restore North Carolina to the Union.

The convention would also provide for the election of a new governor, state legislators and U. This convention was set to convene on October 2, 1865.

Harris of Wake County. This group consisted of approximately one hundred men, some free before the war, some newly freed, and northerners, like Hood, who came to North Carolina to help the freedmen adjust to their new status. Since the freedmen were barred from participation in the constitutional convention scheduled to take place in a few days, they took this opportunity to express their desire for three constitutional rights for blacks: Overall, they expressed their interest that all races be treated equally.

  • Touchstone, 1996 , 93—114;
  • He wanted a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery but did not support citizenship and suffrage for the newly freedmen and women;
  • The appeal to white supremacy also helped the Conservatives regain control of the legislature in 1870;
  • The term of office for these new positions as well as for the governor was increased to four years and all faced direct election by the people, instead of being chosen by the legislature;
  • Senate—more than 600 in state legislatures, and hundreds more in local offices from sheriff to justice of the peace scattered across the South.

This was the first statewide assembly of African Americans in North Carolina. Clearly, the freedmen gathered in Raleigh in 1865 and 1866 saw education as the avenue toward social, economic and political equality. Holden The constitutional convention met October 2, 1865 as planned and adopted the provisions outlined by President Johnson in his proclamation, with the issue of the war debt being hotly debated.

The convention approved the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery and the legislature ratified the amendment on December 4, 1865. The convention also set state elections for November. Jonathan Worththe provisional treasurer of the state and an opponent of repudiation of the war debt, immediately announced his intention to run for governor.

Holden, the provisional governor and supporter of debt cancellation, also declared his candidacy. It turned out his claim was well founded, though for a different reason. A growing Republican faction within a narrative of why the reconstruction period in the united states failed United States Congress believed congress, and not the president, should make the decisions about when and how to re-admit the southern states. Some feared that rushing to re-admit the southern states would jeopardize true emancipation and blacks would be reduced to a state of near slavery unless the white South was forced to change.

Designed to last only one year, Congress extended the program early in 1866. The Bureau then rented these plots to the recently freed slaves and refugee whites who pledged loyalty to the Union.

In North Carolina, the bureau later returned these lands to the former owners, but took a leading role in negotiating fair labor contracts between the owners and freedmen. Jacobs, in 1864, also established the Jacobs School in Alexandria, Virginia, where her daughter Louisa served as administrator and teacher.

During Reconstruction, six of what would eventually be eleven colleges for African Americans were established in North Carolina. The establishment of these historically black colleges and universities is another indication of the importance the freedmen placed on education.

These questions arose before the war was over, at such places as Roanoke Island and James City, but were now being addressed across the state in emancipation communities such as Freedom Hill. While whites accepted the abolishment of slavery, most did not agree that the freedmen and women were equal to them. In the minds of most white people, the natural place for former slaves was still at the bottom of the social order.

Early in 1866, the North Carolina legislature enacted the Black Code, a series of laws that regulated control of the African American population.

The code also placed restrictions on free movement within and outside the state, made it difficult for blacks to purchase and carry firearms, and prohibited interracial marriages. This denial of rights created strong opposition by northerners and blacks within and outside the state. Congressional Reconstruction It was in this atmosphere that the Radical Republicans began to exert their power and to limit that of President Johnson. In response to the institution of black codes across the South, Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment, which extended citizenship to the freedmen and women and guaranteed their rights as citizens of the United States.

It disqualified any state that denied the right to vote to former slaves from re-admittance into the Union. The amendment also stated that anyone who had previously sworn to support the U.

Constitution, but then supported the Confederacy, would not be allowed to hold public office.

  • In England, the son of the Duke of Wellington, whose father had vanquished Napoleon, greeted Grant as a military genius, the primary architect of Union victory in the American Civil War;
  • Some worked for wages, others as sharecroppers, who divided the crop with the owner at the end of the year;
  • Members of the Republican Party included unionist native whites, called Scalawags; freedmen; and northerners, called Carpetbaggers, who came south for political and economic gain;
  • Most had their freedom but little else;
  • African Americans and many whites briefly shared power during Reconstruction, but were soon replaced by the return to power of the white political elite;
  • White supremacist organizations that committed terrorist acts, such as the Ku Klux Klan , targeted local Republican leaders for beatings or assassination.

Such a provision, in effect, removed the pre-war political leadership of the southern states from further or future political positions. The ratification or rejection of the Fourteenth Amendment became the central issue of the state election campaign of 1866.

Governor Worth, who opposed the ratification of the amendment, lobbied the legislature to reject it. His main argument alleged the amendment was unfair to former southern leaders and was perhaps illegal, as representatives from North Carolina were not seated in Congress when Congress drafted the amendment. Former governor Holden supported ratification and, in general, the Radical plan for reconstruction. In the 1866 gubernatorial race, Holden and his followers nominated Alfred Dockery for governor against Worth.

Worth won easily and those opposed to ratification held the majority in the legislature. Thus, North Carolina rejected the Fourteenth Amendment, which set the state on a long, harsh road to reunion. Sickles The Radicals in Congress took the rejection of the Fourteenth Amendment as a sure sign that North Carolina and other southern states needed firmer treatment in regards to reconstruction.

The end of Reconstruction

Otherwise, they argued, the southern states would revert to previous actions and attitudes, which jeopardized the standing of freedmen and women and those loyal to the Union. The result of such thinking was the Reconstruction Act of 1867. It divided the South into five military districts, placing all southern states under military rule, and dissolved the civil governments in all southern states except Tennessee. North Carolina was required to hold a constitutional convention to develop a new state constitution, which would guarantee suffrage to all men over twenty-one years old who had not supported the Confederacy.

This requirement would ensure that freed slaves could participate in elections and government, while those white men, who had supported the Confederate cause, could not.


Once written, the constitution had to be submitted to and approved by Congress. Another condition of the act required that the states ratify the Fourteenth Amendment before being re-admitted to the Union. North Carolina remained under military rule from March 1867 until July 1868 as part of the Second Military District of the Carolinas under the command of Gen.

He did, however, anger many whites when he set up military courts to try civilians and allowed freedmen to serve on juries. President Johnson removed Sickles from command for refusing an order from a federal judge, and replaced him with Gen. Canby, somewhat more radical-minded than Sickles, carried out the requirements of the reconstruction acts and ordered an election for November of 1867 to choose delegates to the constitutional convention.

The Election of 1868 A two-party system of politics emerged at the time of the delegate election. The Conservative Party, comprised mainly of former Whigs and old-order Democrats, joined together in an effort to defeat radical reconstruction politics.