Reconstruction: A Political Dilemma To many historians, Reconstruction was a period in history when America readmitted the former Confederate

States back into the Union after the Civil War. But this is the simplest form of the term. Many amendments, laws and political decisions were agreed upon that altered the way the country was ran. From deciding freedmen’s place in society to building a brand new economy and legal system the South had plenty of things to discuss and settle. The success of Reconstruction is constantly debated. In some ways it was helpful but in others manipulative and racist. With the Civil War’s end in 1866 and the passing of the 13th amendment that abolished slavery, the South needed a large amount of economic charity and political guidance. Instantly, the North came up with a few possible plans for the South’s future. They had already witnessed the black codes, a system that limited African American rights/freedoms, and instinctively thought they were trying to resurrect the “old South.” Radical Republicans and other political groups had their views on what the South was about to become. Eventually, the Civil Rights Act was passed. This act stated that all persons born in the United States were citizens regardless of race, color, or previous servitude. (except Native Americans) Many activists were ecstatic that Congress was finally taking notice of the newly freed slaves. Another amendment was passed shortly after that solidified the Civil Rights Act. The 14th amendment gave former slaves full citizenship, but they still not achieve full equality. Sooner than later, the new state constitutions would be drafted. A large percentage of the people involved were farmers and African Americans. African American were greatly important to this process because of the fact they had been denied a voice in the government for so long. Despite these great advancements, two new forms of farming were taking over the lives of many former slaves. The share-cropping and contract system were legalized forms of slavery that kept its workers in a never ending cycle of poverty. This was just one of the many setbacks for African Americans. Poll tax, or a newly established tax by the state governments forcing African Americans to pay to vote, sabotaged the 15th amendment. The 15th amendment ranted former male slaves the right to vote. Because of these taxes and farming systems, former slaves could not afford to vote and were yet again denied a voice in the government. Everything was progressing in the wrong direction. Even the government was in poor shape. The Grant administration was collapsing amidst scandal and economic depression. Grant had been foolishly appointing his army buddies and wife’s male relatives that were inexperienced and unqualified for government positions. He took part in bribes and deviously handled federal funds too. A nation wide panic spread in 1873 and banks completely ran out of business. People were beginning to lose interest in Reconstruction and blamed the country’s problems on the Republicans, the majority in office at the time. Finally, the final blow in Reconstruction occurred. The Compromise of 1877 did not settle many things. The terms were the government would agree to remove federal troops set up in the South, land grants and loans would be provided for railroad construction linking the South to the West coast, Hayes would be elected the President due to the close race, and Hayes would appoint a Democrat to this cabinet. Lastly, the

Republicans would promise to respect the civil and political rights of African Americans. This was such a loose term that it almost didn’t mean anything if written on paper. The compromise was one of the worst thought up of in American history and a disappointment to African Americans alike. Reconstruction had been unsuccessful in more ways than one. It produced a legalized form of slavery. It led to scandal and economic depression. But most importantly it failed in the ultimate goal of granting full equality to African Americans. A disappointment to most political leaders, Reconstruction did not benefit the country in a productive manner, and that is an American shame.