Free and Proper Elections

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Free and Proper Elections - NCFPE Poltical Blog and News Tracker

Most Historians Agree That Radical Reconstruction Was A Failure. What Might Have Been Done In Texas That Would?

Corruption and bribery did take place in government during Reconstruction, as they had prior to the Civil War and as they still do today. Railroad promoters, business speculators and their retainers, land contractors, and stock market investors all sought to purchase their share of influence with elected leaders. As one black representative and former slave commented, “I’ve been sold eleven times in my life; this is the first time I ever got the money.” Yet despite these moral frailties, all of the southern governments combined did not steal as much from the public treasury as William “Boss” Tweed’s Ring in New York City, a Democratic Party machine that lined its pockets with over $75 million, or the Republican “Gas Ring” in Philadelphia, which did the same thing. Though such comparisons do not excuse the failings that Reconstruction governments did exhibit, the fact remains that such governments did establish some of the first public and social services in the South outside of North Carolina; they collected taxes to fund public schools, expand hospitals, and build asylums, among other programs.
Nonetheless, as whites regained power over the South by 1877 and throughout the century that followed, whites from both North and South pilloried the Reconstruction period as a disaster because blacks were in charge, and were—by their interpretation—racially unfit to rule and unprepared for the rights, responsibilities, and freedoms granted to them in postwar America. Reconstruction-era instances of corruption or bribery were vastly exaggerated; the nation’s foremost scholars, especially historians, wrote seething histories of the period that decried the supposedly deplorable treatment of white southerners and spun overtly racist tales concerning the ignorance and savage lust of black officeholders. More………………… ———— The interpretation of Reconstruction has swung back and forth several times. Nearly all historians hold that Reconstruction ended in failure. It is hard to see Reconstruction “as concluding in anything but failure” says Etcheson (2009) Etcheson adds, “W. E. B. DuBois captured that failure well when he wrote in Black Reconstruction in America (1935): ‘The slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery.'” Likewise Eric Foner concludes that from the black point of view, “Reconstruction must be judged a failure.” The many factors contributing to this failure include: lack of a permanent federal agency specifically designed for the enforcement of civil rights; the Morrison R. Waite Supreme Court decisions that dismantled previous congressional civil rights legislation; and the economic reestablishment of conservative white planters in the South by 1877. Historian William McFeely explained that although the Constitutional amendments and civil rights legislation on their own merit were remarkable achievements no permanent government agency whose specific purpose was civil rights enforcement had been created.
The first generation of Northern historians believed that the former Confederates were traitors and Johnson was their ally who threatened to undo the Union’s Constitutional achievements. By the 1880s, however, Northern historians argued that Johnson and his allies were not traitors but blundered badly in rejecting the 14th Amendment and setting the stage for Radical Reconstruction.
The black leader Booker T. Washington, who grew up in West Virginia during Reconstruction, concluded that, “the Reconstruction experiment in racial democracy failed because it began at the wrong end, emphasizing political means and civil rights acts rather than economic means and self-determination.” His solution was to concentrate on building the economic infrastructure of the black community, in part by his leadership of Tuskegee Institute..More……………………

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