Reconstruction: A Concise History by Allen C. Guelzo published by Oxford University Press (2018)

cash

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Right here.
The issues of Reconstruction are not the issues we are hung about.
Their issues were managing the national debt, maintaining a national currency, private job creation, creating a national transportation system, and governing the flood of European immigrants.
The south may have been hung up on a racial caste system, but the rest of the country by passed that problem and got ready for the 20th century.
There is a little bit of this in Guelzo's book, but it is not the story he wants to tell.

Why don't you read the book before telling us what's in it and what he wants to tell.
 
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wausaubob

Colonel
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Denver, CO
The book is fundamentally flawed.
Despite popular ideas that inflation has a redistributive effect that helps working people, monetary stability was achieved during the Reconstruction era. There was no national currency system before the Civil War. There were thousands of private currencies and the actual amount of corruption and insider loans that never performed was staggering.
A national currency had to be constructed based on the ad hoc solutions adopted during the Civil War, and that was going to be a painful, slow process.
Without a good study of the national debt, the gold premium, the spread of deposit checking, the rejection of bi-metalism, and the rejection of paper money inflation, reconstruction cannot be understood.
The United States had to inspire confidence among European capitalists, in London, Paris and Frankfurt. If that had not happened, the United States probably never becomes industrialized.
The gold standard was the only solution, at that time, for a country that did not have a secure national currency and an efficient central bank.
The other fundamental flaw is that the achievement of Reconstruction was the 14th Amendment. As @Pat Young has shown, despite everything that has been written, the people best positioned to take advantage of the 14th Amendment were European immigrants. Immigrants of all types and all religions came, and found it easy to become Americans.
I will give credit to Guelzo for his epilogue. He notes that the United States avoided a downward spiral into repeated general civil wars. See pp. 127-128. The history of Europe in the 20th century shows what Reconstruction avoided.
The whole nation could have been caught in a downward spiral, a national Cool Hand Luke self-destructive cycle of violence ending in genocide.
The race system that resulted was not very good, but black people made it work. Its hard to see how they did it, but with black communities in the northern states somehow surviving and growing, they became a permanent part of the United States.
While all the political fighting was going on, there were fundamental changes in knowledge. The US became a world leader in steel. The harnessing of nitro glycerin fundamentally changed construction costs. Germ theory explained the relation between sanitation and disease.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
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Location
Denver, CO
Texas developed as a major new source of cotton after the Civil War.
On the eve of the Civil War, Texas produced 308,000 bales of cotton. By 1878 the total had
risen to more than a million bales. The total reached 1.5 million bales in the decade
1880-90. Despite the ravages of Mexican boll weevils, the Texas crop exceeded 3
million bales before 1900. In 1906 the Texas crop amounted to more than 4 million
bales. fn 149 By 1890 Texas was growing more cotton than was India. fn150
https://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2097/14956/RickyDaleCalhoun2012.pdf?sequence=1
p. 440
The basic problem with what was called reconstruction was that Texas was so big, and so productive, that even without slavery it could put the rest of the south out of business. After deflation got the price level back to pre-war levels, by 1879, the price of cotton steadily declined until the low of 1898.
 

wausaubob

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What was the pre-war, Whig/Republican program?
It was gradual emancipation through state action.
The rejection of Jacksonian banking policies and the movement towards sound banking based proven that had already been proven in New England.
Former Governor Seward's rejection of nativist anti-immigrant policies became Republican and New York doctrine for 60 years.
The Henry Clay advocacy of internal improvements became national policy. Hundreds of railroads were built, dozens went bankrupt, and more and more will built.
Grant completely pivoted on his own anti-Semitic instincts, and made a conscious choice to include the Jewish community, including the Seligmans, Lehmans and Drexels of the US, in national politics. It mattered.
In addition the Jacksonian policy of excluding Indians and sending them west had to end. There was no place more to send them.
Without a change in policy, disease, starvation and violence was going to lead to a wicked result. And no, men hunting wild game from horseback, a make believe extension of the paleolithic era, was not a solution, except in the movies.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
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Denver, CO
Could people talk about the book that Guelzo wrote and not the one somebody wishes he wrote?
He has projected our concerns into the past, without addressing immigration. I suppose that has a purpose, but to me it was disappointing.
For some reason he wants to avoid the rejection of economic imperialism in Santo Domingo, but its tolerance in Alaska and Hawaii.
There was stiff turn to a pro British position and an anti-Napoleon position, and I suppose Guelzo felt that had been covered in the other book about the Grant presidency, which slips my mind temporarily.
 

wausaubob

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I was disappointed to see him write about the Grant cabinet.
The basis of the Grant cabinet was the virtual drafting of Hamilton Fish. Fish was going to be Grant's Seward. If Fish is in the cabinet, Stewart probably cannot be in the cabinet. That would two New Yorkers. If Stewart is not Sec'y of the Treasury, then someone like Boutwell gets the Treasury. If Boutwell is in the treasury, then Hoar probably cannot be the Attorney General. Its a small thing, really, but maybe someone who knew more about Grant would get there.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
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Location
Denver, CO
The same policy of foregiveness which covered the Confederate military people was going to cover the railroad people.
The California people had solved some very complicated engineering and management problems. The Union Pacific people had clearly violated Lincoln's trust in erecting the subsidies. But if the country was not going to punish people that had to try overthrow the government, maybe it could exercise some restraint with respect to people who had tried to do something positive for a country. But politics did not allow that. Political misdeeds by allies of the Democrats had to be forgiven, political errors of Republicans had to be trumpeted, and that word is deliberately chosen.
But I suppose Alan Guelzo did not want to write very much about corruption. His intent was elsewhere.
 

wausaubob

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Location
Denver, CO
Except that the issue was a primary concern of the 14th Amendment.
Section 4.
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

The United States had a long history of state defalcation, fraudulent state banks, non appraisal of taxable property, and two episodes of hyper inflation. Direct repudiation, or indirect repudiation through inflation, was a valid concern.

And what were two of the corruption issues that hurt the Grant administration? The customs unit of New York was full of unnecessary Conkling appointees, and the entire distilling industry was cheating on the excise taxes and had infiltrated the White House, probably.
 

Bee

Captain
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017
Joined
Dec 21, 2015
That's a lot to cover in 150 pages by itself, much less in addition to all the traditional Reconstruction topics.

Remembering that the title of the book is CONCISE...except that I don't think we're talking about the book anymore, so I am going to check outta this room.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
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Location
Denver, CO
In a concise book a person uses a phrase like scandals of the Grant administration. That excuses the entire Republican Party and everyone else from any responsibility. Just as calling the Credit Mobilier a product of the Grant administration, which is what Guelzo has implied, relieves the responsibility of who put Thomas Durant and Oakes Ames in charge of the Union Pacific and who created the Central Pacific, which had to ship everything around the Horn or over the isthmus of Panama.
Grant bad, Lincoln good, the same old stuff.
 

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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From Nick's generally very positive review:

Guelzo’s most contentious claim that will no doubt arouse heated debate among historians is his argument that Reconstruction was a pure bourgeois revolution “outside the boundaries of Marxist theory” (p. 11). According to him, the Republican push for an economic system based on free labor—the belief that workers should have the right to freely contract their labor and that, through hard work and thrift, wage laborers would eventually become bourgeois owners of land and property— was purely capitalist in nature. Guelzo makes two different arguments to support his thesis. One engages previous Reconstruction historiography. The Dunning school scholars of the early twentieth century, according to Guelzo, was excessively “progressive” in their racism and distrust of popular democracy, which blinded them to the liberatory aspects of free labor. Meanwhile the “anti-Dunningites,” starting with W. E. B. Du Bois and James S. Allen in the 1930s and continuing through Kenneth Stampp, John Hope Franklin, and John and LaWanda Cox during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, were excessively Marxist in their interpretations and subsequently unable to view Reconstruction through any other lens besides “class and revolution” (pp. 9-10). Both of these classifications are awkward and debatable. Not all Dunning School scholars could be considered “progressive,” and scholars like Stampp and Franklin could hardly be called Marxists. In fact, Stampp actually characterized Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction as “naive” for portraying the era as a Marxist “proletarian movement.”[4] Nevertheless, these distinctions allow Guelzo to portray himself as a conservative counterpoint to previous Reconstruction scholarship that he believes has been dominated by scholars of a leftist persuasion.
 
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