Reconstruction, how bad was it really?

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#41
The last Republican Reconstruction governor of South Carolina, Daniel Chamberlain, wrote about his experiences in South Carolina in Atlantic magazine.

http://www.unz.com/print/AtlanticMonthly-1901apr-00473

Here, as at all points in this paper, the writer [Chamberlain] intends to speak with moderation of spirit and entire frankness. He thinks he can do justice to all parties and persons who took active part in reconstruction, though himself an actor, at times somewhat prominent. It will be for others to judge whether he has succeeded, as he has tried to do, in laying aside prejudices or feelings naturally developed by his activity in these scenes, so that he can see the men and events of those days objectively and disinterestedly.​

Attitudes after the war. North and South contributed to the environment:
Two main causes now came into operation to disturb this tendency and course of feeling and events. The first of these was the existence at the North, on the part of a strenuous, ardent, vigorous minority, of a deep-seated, longmaturing, highly - developed distrust of the South ; a sentiment resting partly on moral antagonism to slavery, but chiefly on a feeling of dread or hatred of those who had brought on a destructive, and, worst of all, a causeless or unnecessary war. Not all of those who belonged to this class are to be described so mildly. Some, it may be said, if not many, were really moved by an unreasoning antipathy toward those whom they had so long denounced as slaveholders and rebels. Slavery abolished and rebellion subdued, their occupation was gone; and still they could not adjust themselves to a new order of things. The other great cause of reaction from the friendly and conciliatory spirit which was the first result of the victory for the Union was the conduct of the South itself. Beaten in arms and impoverished, stripped of slavery, the white South found solace, or saw relief, if not recompense, in harsh treatment of the emancipated negroes, in laws, in business, and in social relations. The effect of this folly was decisive at the North. But added to this was the fatuous course of President Johnson, to whom the South, not unnaturally, gave warm support.​

The Republican views and goals. Note that Chamberlain names his sources: the congressional record, and himself as an eyewitness:
Out of these adverse conditions came reconstruction. Its inception and development into policy and law were not the results or dictates of sober judgment of what was best; least of all were they inspired by statesmanlike forecast, or the teachings of philosophy or history. The writer has recently turned over anew the congressional discussions, in 1866 and 1867, of reconstruction, the South, and especially the negro question, some large part of which he heard at first-hand. It is, for by far the greater part, melancholy reading, — shocking in its crudeness and disregard of facts and actualities, amazing for the confident levity of tone on the part of the leading advocates of the reconstruction acts of 1867, and for its narrowly partisan spirit. Confidence here rose easily into prophecy, and the country was assured of a peaceful, prosperous South, with negro loyalty forever at the helm. The white South was helpless. The black South was equal to all the needs of the hour: ignorant, to be sure, but loyal; inexperienced, but, with the ballot as its teacher and inspiration, capable of assuring good government. Hardly anywhere else in recorded debates can be found so surprising a revelation of the blindness of partisan zeal as these discussions disclose.
Chamberlain throws cold water on the modern claim that Reconstruction was some sort of Civil Rights crusade.
But it may now be clear to all, as it was then clear to some, that underneath all the avowed motives and all the open arguments lay a deeper cause than all others, — the will and determination to secure party ascendency and control at the South and in the nation through the negro vote. If this is a hard saying, let any one now ask himself, or ask the public, if it is possibly credible that the reconstruction acts would have been passed if the negro vote had been believed to be Democratic.​

Chamberlain notes that there were some with good intentions, but that was not the case of the Republican leadership:
It is, however, necessary at this point to be just. Not all who bore part in fixing the terms of reconstruction were ignoble or ignorant. Among them were many unselfish doctrinaires, humanitarians, and idealists of fine type. Among them, too, were men who ranked as statesmen, who in other fields had well earned the name, but who now were overborne or overpersuaded. Back of all these, however, were the party leaders, who moved on, driving the reluctant, crushing and ostracizing the doubtful, brutally riding down those who dared to oppose.​
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Not one of these leaders had seen the South, or studied it at first-hand. Not one of them professed or cared to know more. They had made up their minds once for all, and they wished only to push on with their predetermined policy. The one descriptive feature, the one overshadowing item, of their policy was, as has been said, negro suffrage, loyalty under a black skin at the helm, — a policy which, like other historical policies of " Thorough," like the policy of Strafford and Laud, whence the fitting word has come, brooked no opposition or delay, and halted for no arguments or obstacles whilst these leaders led. The personal knowledge of the writer warrants him in stating that eyes were never blinder to facts, minds never more ruthlessly set upon a policy, than were Stevens and Morton on putting the white South under the heel of the black South.​
 
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#42
More from Chamberlain. Was graft and corruption rampant during Reconstruction? Or was it much milder than has previously been said?

The quick, sure result was of course misgovernment. Let a few statistics tell the tale. Before the war, the average expense of the annual session of the legislature in South Carolina did not exceed $20,000. For the six years following reconstruction the average annual expense was over $320,000, the expense of the session of 1871 alone being $617,000. The total legislative expenses for the six years were $2,339,000.​
The average annual cost of public printing in Massachusetts for the last ten years has been $131,000; for the year 1899 it was $139,000, and this included much costly printing never dreamed of in South Carolina in those days. In reconstructed South Carolina the cost of public printing for the first six years was $1,104,000, — an annual average of $184,000, the cost for the single year 1871-72 being $348,000.​
The total public debt of South Carolina at the beginning of reconstruction was less than $1,000,000. At the end of the year 1872, five years later, the direct public debt amounted to over $17,-500,000. For all this increase the state had not a single public improvement of any sort to show ; and of this debt over $5,950,000 had been formally repudiated by the party and the men who had created the debt, and received and handled its proceeds.​
Prior to reconstruction, contingent funds were absolutely unknown in South Carolina; a contingent fund, as known under reconstruction, being a sum of money which a public officer is allowed to draw and expend without accountability. During the first six years of reconstruction the contingent funds in South Carolina amounted to $376,000.​
These are pecuniary results, but they tell a moral tale. No such results could be possible except where public and private virtue was well-nigh extinct; nor could they exist alone. In fact, they were only one salient effect or phase of a wide reign of corruption and general misrule. Public offices were objects of vulgar, commonplace bargain and sale. Justice in the lower and higher courts was bought and sold; or rather, those who sat in the seats nominally of justice made traffic of their judicial powers. State militia on a vast scale was organized and equipped in 1870 and 1871 solely from the negroes, arms and legal organization being denied the white Democrats. No branch of the public service escaped the pollution.​
 
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#43
Chamberlain decries the disenfranchisement of former Confederate leadership, and why that was a major mistake.

True views of the situation — views sound, enlightened, and statesmanlike — were not wanting even then. Mr. Lincoln had presented such views ; but above all other men in the whole land, Governor Andrew, of Massachusetts, in his farewell address to the Massachusetts legislature, January 2, 1866, discussed with elaboration the Southern situation, and urged views and suggested policies which will mark him always in our annals, at least with the highest minds, as a true, prescient, and lofty statesman, versed in the past and able to prejudge the future. His valedictory address is veritably prophetic, — as prophetic as it is politic and practical.​
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Governor Andrew's argument and policy may be briefly stated. Three great, flashing apothegms summarize it: (1.) Prosecute peace as vigorously as we have prosecuted war. (2.) Inflict no humiliation, require no humiliation, of the South. (3.) Enlist the sympathy and services of " the natural leaders " of the South in the work of reconstruction. To the oft repeated dictum that those who had ruled the South so long and rigorously — its natural leaders — could not be trusted with this work, Andrew pointed out, with prophetic insight, that these men, if not accepted as friends, would resume their leadership as enemies. Such a vision of the future, such a clear annunciation of truth and fact, fell on blind and impatient or angry minds.​
 
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#44
Using your post as an example, can YOU name specific's?
Again, I see generalities, accusations thrown around..."a wide reign of corruption and general misrule. Public offices were objects of vulgar, commonplace bargain and sale. Justice in the lower and higher courts was bought and sold; or rather, those who sat in the seats nominally of justice made traffic of their judicial powers."
But again, a broad sweep of information, but no details.
Do you know where/when a government official bribed someone, or accepted bribes from someone during reconstruction, and the results of that? Were there times the occupation forces went out and wantonly murdered someone for little or no reason? Did Government officials order the confiscation of property...These are things I'm looking for, because this is the normal thing that pro confederate folk always claim, but never show evidence of actuality.

Kevin Dally
 
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#45
Using your post as an example, can YOU name specific's?
Again, I see generalities, accusations thrown around..."a wide reign of corruption and general misrule. Public offices were objects of vulgar, commonplace bargain and sale. Justice in the lower and higher courts was bought and sold; or rather, those who sat in the seats nominally of justice made traffic of their judicial powers."
But again, a broad sweep of information, but no details.
Do you know where/when a government official bribed someone, or accepted bribes from someone during reconstruction, and the results of that? Were there times the occupation forces went out and wantonly murdered someone for little or no reason? Did Government officials order the confiscation of property...These are things I'm looking for, because this is the normal thing that pro confederate folk always claim, but never show evidence of actuality.

Kevin Dally
Also we should ask @Andersonh1 if after Reconstruction their was no political corruption in the South .
Leftyhunter
 

19thGeorgia

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#46
Kevin,
Thanks for starting this thread. I do not claim to be one of your "pro-confederate folk" however, having been born and raised in the South, perhaps I qualify under your definition? Assuming that is the case, I will provide what I perceive as the worst example of why Reconstruction was bad for the south.

The Freedmen's Bureau was a dismal failure....at least in Alabama. Admittedly, I have only studied in depth the records for Alabama, Freedmen's Bureau, Field Office Records, 1865-1872, Roll 34, Fair copies of contracts, Tuscumbia, AL. The document contains copies of agreements between freedmen and the whites who wished to employ them that were approved by the Freedmen's Bureau as "fair" to the freedmen who were being employed. <It does not include copies of contracts submitted that were deemed unfair.> For those who have not read any of these supposedly "fair" contracts, I believe you would be as shocked as I.

Many of the agreements, approved by the Freedmen's bureau, specify that the employer will provide "substantial and healthy rations" ---which turns out to mean 3.5 pounds of bacon and a "peck" of corn meal per worker per week. Clothing is sometimes specified - 2 pair of pants, a shirt, a pair of socks, and, sometimes, a coat per year. One contract was approved by the Freedmen's bureau which required a freedwoman to work as a house servant for a year beginning in January 1866, in exchange for room, board, and one calico dress, to be received "in the Fall."

Unfortunately, there were requirements included in many of the "fair" agreements that I found even more troubling than those specified above. In a number of the contracts, approved by the Freedmen's bureau, was a clause specifying that the freedmen and freedwomen had to "obey the orders of the employer and his family" and were not allowed to leave the employers premises without permission. (!) Many of the contracts specified that freedmen and women were to "labor from sunup to sunset every day," Sundays usually excepted, with an hour for dinner.

Many of these agreements required the freedmen and women to reimburse the employer for clothing, but some required them to reimburse for rations, medical bills, and clothing. And still more required the freedmen to reimburse the employer for any damage or loss of farm implements. Most specified that the mules and horses provided by the employer for the crop, could not be used for anything other than the crop.

The Freedmen's Bureau approved these kinds of arrangement for 7 years before the bureau was abolished. The implied consent or endorsement by the Freedmen's Bureau reinforced status quo - freedmen and women were still subject to the "rule of the employer."

What I am getting at is this: had the Freedmen's Bureau been conscientious in the exercise of its duty and actually required reasonable agreements, freedmen and women would have been provided an opportunity to earn a sustainable living and a great deal of suffering on the part of freedmen and women could have been avoided.
Sounds like a continuation of the corrupt contraband labor system.
 
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#47
Using your post as an example, can YOU name specific's?
Again, I see generalities, accusations thrown around..."a wide reign of corruption and general misrule. Public offices were objects of vulgar, commonplace bargain and sale. Justice in the lower and higher courts was bought and sold; or rather, those who sat in the seats nominally of justice made traffic of their judicial powers."
But again, a broad sweep of information, but no details.
Do you know where/when a government official bribed someone, or accepted bribes from someone during reconstruction, and the results of that? Were there times the occupation forces went out and wantonly murdered someone for little or no reason? Did Government officials order the confiscation of property...These are things I'm looking for, because this is the normal thing that pro confederate folk always claim, but never show evidence of actuality.

Kevin Dally
Did you read the financial figures in post 42? Did you note that the author of the article was hardly pro-Confederate, but was in fact a Republican governor during Reconstruction? Prior to that, Chamberlain was Attorney General of SC. He was deeply involved in the governing of the state. He is a first-class eyewitness to the events of the day. Don't shrug off what he says so quickly and easily.
 
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#50
Why? The thread isn't post reconstruction.
My point is that violently suppressing the rights of African Americans to participate in exercising their constitutional rights to participate in government did not end political corruption in the South. If the reason to justify violence against black people is to end political corruption then the white Southerners failed miserably.
Leftyhunter
 

19thGeorgia

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#51
More from Chamberlain...
The total public debt of South Carolina at the beginning of reconstruction was less than $1,000,000. At the end of the year 1872, five years later, the direct public debt amounted to over $17,500,000. For all this increase the state had not a single public improvement of any sort to show ; and of this debt over $5,950,000 had been formally repudiated by the party and the men who had created the debt, and received and handled its proceeds.​
This same sort of mismanagement (corruption) was repeated in other southern states.
 

OpnCoronet

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#52
Earlier today I said I would post a question on reconstruction. I have two books on the subject, Foner's, and Stampp's, I just haven't been able to dig deeply in them. The jest of the question is that all too often pro-confederate folk always claim (in the most vague, and general of terms) that reconstruction was SO bad for the South.

The problem is that nearly all the time when these claims are posted, NO DETAILS OF WHY IT WAS SO BAD, are posted. It's always complaints of "policies" during reconstruction were purposely used to (so to speak) down-trod the southern people, and keep em poor.
I'm giving folk a chance to show us if these claims are true. I'm not caring for vague "my GGrandpappy said", or "GGAunt so-n-so told my Father"...I'd like to see serious documentation and factual references please.
Kevin Dally




All the major problems of southern reunion under the Constitution, carpet baggers, scalawags, etc. soon disappeared, as soon, black enfranchisement was left up to the States.
 
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#53
From "Reconstruction in South Carolina" by John Reynolds:
The State debt was increased from $5,407,306.27 to $14,833,349.17, and in December 1870 the amount as given in the official reports was $18,575,033.91.​
At the close of the year 1870 all the counties except Anderson and Fairfield were in debt—the aggregate of these liabilities exceeding $250,000. At that time also there were outstanding pay certificates of teachers in the public schools amounting to $57,320.40.​
The average annual tax levy for some years before the Civil War had been less than $550,000—which, however, did not include the interest on the State debt, amounting to about $350,000 annually, which was paid out of the net earnings of the Bank of the State of South Carolina. The taxes, State and county, for the fiscal year ending October 31, 1869, amounted to $1,764,357.41.​
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The public school system was grossly inefficient throughout, by reason not only of the incapacity of school commissioners and their consequent inability to organize any proper system of education, but because of the lack of funds.​
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The land commission, to which the Legislature had allowed $700,000 for the purchase of "homes for the homeless, lands for the landless," had accomplished little but the acquisition of quantities of land, much of it at prices far beyond its real value, accompanied with many scandalous transactions. False entries in deeds of conveyance​
were made, so that the price paid for the property might appear more than the sum received by the seller. In one of these "deals" the land commission divided $90,000 as their profits. The doings of the commission were tainted throughout with fraud, and there were, besides, irregularities involving loss to the State.​
The administration of the public business had been marked by reckless waste amounting to actual malfeasance. Members of the Legislature had sold their votes, and State officers had made money out of their positions at the expense of the taxpayers. The legislative and the executive department were tainted with corruption, and the entire administration was weak by reason of the incapacity of most of its agents. Among the white people the almost universal feeling towards the State Government was contempt for its weakness and disgust for its rottenness. (pp 134-135)​
 
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#54
Some specifics about how money was mis-spent can be found here, and investigation of the newspapers mentioned might provide more specifics:

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/re...by-john-s-reynolds.146541/page-2#post-1829815

Reynolds even breaks down all the various expenses of that session of the legislature to pay members, chaplains, stenographers, etc. It's interesting to note that pay of members was $103,000, while money spent on "sundries" (wines, cigars, liquors, groceries, dry goods, etc) was $157,800. $37,000 was spent on furniture, and $152,565 was spent on printing. The author puts the total expenditures for the session at $679,071.83 (down to the cent!), and then contrasts it with the later Democrat run session of 1876-77 of $75,019. He clearly regards this spending as excessive and as an example of the legislature living it up with the public money. The House attempted to investigate all the money spent "fitting and furnishing" the legislative halls and committee rooms, but it never passed. It was more fraud, Reynolds says, and offers the discrepancy in the cost of the items and the money paid out as evidence:​
The claims thus disposed of consisted of the bills of certain dealers for furniture and fittings sold the State for use in the legislative halls and committee rooms. The articles bought were of the most expensive character, the prices paid for some being as follows: Chandeliers, from $1,500 to $2,500 each; window curtains, from $500 to $1,500; sofas, $150 to $175; Gothic chairs, $70 to $90; marble top washstands, $35; spittoons (billed as "cuspadores") $8 each.

The total of the bills actually presented for these articles was $40,189.87. The House committee reported the sum due to be $90,556.31, and that amount was actually paid out of the State treasury. The difference between the two amounts ($50,466.44) was divided among certain members, as their reward for putting the claim through the House. (p 161)​
The legislature at this time requested more troops from President Grant. The printing bill was so high because two clerks of the House ran the "Republican Printing Company", which held a monopoly on SC government printing.​
The taxpayers of the state were indignant and alarmed, and the press was screaming about the waste. A convention of taxpayers was held in Charleston on March 24, 1871, and their resolution essentially complained of taxation without representation. They had no say in how their taxes were spent, and the money taken was "excessive and extravagant". The convention let it be known that they would not be held liable for the spending and debt the current government was running up. The list of convention representatives is given, and the various other resolutions they offered are summarized. They resolved and appointed men to talk to the governor and present their resolutions. Daniel Chamberlain was involved with this convention, interestingly.​
The November 1871 state of the state report noted an increase of the state's debt by $3,129,000, so the legislature was still spending more than they took in. Scott criticized all the money spent on furniture for the State House, and he criticized the "Republican Printing Company". A major portion of his speech was devoted to denouncing the KKK.​
When the legislature got underway, C. C. Bowen of Charleston tried to have the governor and the treasurer impeached for "high crimes and misdemeanors". In a book filled with detailed information, Reynolds fails to tell us just what the legislature had against Scott, but he apparently escaped impeachment by bribing enough members of the House to vote against it. Bowen was offered $15,000 to stop impeachment proceedings, but his price was $25,000. My guess, given that Scott criticizes the legislature and vetoes some of their legislation is that they just wanted to punish him for not cooperating, but we're not given enough information to determine that with any certainty.​
At the end of the session, expenses are again given, and the amount spent for sundries shot way up, to $282,514.50. $72,815 was spent on stationary, $116,578 on furniture and $173,000 on printing, so nearly all expenses went up from the prior year. No indication is given by the author as to what these expenses were for, only that they were excessive and extravagant. When it comes to the amount of taxpayer money spent on cigars and liquor, it's hard to argue. A bill to issue bonds to ostensibly build a railroad was vetoed by Scott, but it passed over his veto, again by bribery. Reynolds characterizes it as a financial scheme to benefit various members of the state board, but the bonds were later declared void by both the SC supreme court and the US Supreme Court.​
 

Lost Cause

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#55
Texas Carpetbagger George W. Honey from Wisconsin was charged with inappropriate use of funds when he loaned state funds to private individu- als. Honey was removed by the Davis administration, but regained the office by order of the state Supreme Court. Adjutant General James Davidson, a Scots- man, defrauded the state of Texas more than $37,000 by issuing fraudulent warrants and fled in 1872.

https://www.scr.org/docs/default-source/media/02-03season/carpet.pdf
 

Jimklag

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#56
Texas Carpetbagger George W. Honey from Wisconsin was charged with inappropriate use of funds when he loaned state funds to private individu- als. Honey was removed by the Davis administration, but regained the office by order of the state Supreme Court. Adjutant General James Davidson, a Scots- man, defrauded the state of Texas more than $37,000 by issuing fraudulent warrants and fled in 1872.

https://www.scr.org/docs/default-source/media/02-03season/carpet.pdf
$37,000 would be worth over $1.1 million today. I assume he fled back to Scotland?
 

Lost Cause

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#57
$37,000 would be worth over $1.1 million today. I assume he fled back to Scotland?
He was later reported to have fled to Belgium but was not found there and never returned to Texas. Davidson surfaced in New Plymouth, New Zealand, where he married Jane Ryan on October 20, 1874. They had six children. Apparently he was a member of the Armed Constabulatory Force in New Zealand. By 1880 he was a captain in the Taranaki Mounted Rifles headquartered in New Plymouth, and he served as mayor of that town from 1879 into the 1880s. Davidson committed suicide on April 7, 1885. His death records listed his profession as an accountant. He was buried in New Plymouth, New Zealand.

https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fda26
 
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#59
Texas Carpetbagger George W. Honey from Wisconsin was charged with inappropriate use of funds when he loaned state funds to private individu- als. Honey was removed by the Davis administration, but regained the office by order of the state Supreme Court. Adjutant General James Davidson, a Scots- man, defrauded the state of Texas more than $37,000 by issuing fraudulent warrants and fled in 1872.

https://www.scr.org/docs/default-source/media/02-03season/carpet.pdf
"The Carpetbaggers Children"...interesting title.:unsure:


Kevin Dally
 

lelliott19

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#60
The taxes, State and county, for the fiscal year ending October 31, 1869, amounted to $1,764,357.41.
I'd be interested in the burden this placed on individual families. Any idea what the average per person or per household state/county tax burden was in 1860 vs, 1869?
 
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