Reconstruction's Biggest Mistake?

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Horace Porter

First Sergeant
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Apr 4, 2009
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When you look at Reconstruction, I think you see several threads of argument Let me offer a few of them. Readers may have others to add.

1. The transition from slavery to freedom was going to be tough on both blacks and whites. Without confiscation and redistribution, blacks would find it tough to establish economic opportunity, and the vast majority of them lacked education (as did many whites, but that's not the point). And, let's be fair ... whites had racist notions of black inferiority engraved into their very being for generations, so to expect that to go away all of a sudden is really asking a great deal. Even non-slaveholding whites had been taught to fear the consequences of emancipation, so, already smarting from defeat, you can imagine that it was going to be a tough readjustment.

2. Let's say you don't believe blacks should have been brought along into political rights so quickly. Okay. But do you really think that the federal government was going to let former Confederate leaders take charge of the state and local governments, and send representatives to Congress? Really?

3. Let's say you have no problem with blacks voting and holding office. Surely you realize that many white southerners would not accept that order of things. Violence was to be expected. And, if you send federal troops down south, don't you do more to get people upset? And how long would northerners stand for that? After all, a majority of northerners were racist, too.

So maybe the problem in the first place was the rush to reestablish civil government in the South. No one was really ready for that. You couldn't have such governments without blacks (look at the track record in 1865-1866) or with them (1867-1877). Maybe you needed a much longer transition period under federal supervision. Would that be ideal? No. But could it be worse than what happened?

I'm not advocating this position: I'm posing this as something to stir some discussion along (I hope) fresh lines.
 
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