Rutherford Reconstruction Era. The Reconstruction was an effort

Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden were head to head in the election of 1876 until two days before the inauguration. Tilden had won the popular vote, but 20 electoral votes from three Republican-controlled states and Oregon remained unknown. In these states, Democrats had won out of fraud and violence, but the Constitution did not support a way for handling the controversy. To settle this, Congress created an Electoral Commission to vote on the candidates. They settled the constitutional crisis by creating the Compromise of 1877. The Democrats agreed on the victory of Hayes if he would remove the federal troops out of the South, therefore, putting a formal end on Reconstruction. The compromise ended the political dilemma, but the defeat of Reconstruction left racial injustice a problem for generations and left the North and South more divided than ever before. It laid a foundation of segregation that would plague the country for the next eighty-five years. America was going through a difficult time; a time known as the Reconstruction Era. The Reconstruction was an effort to rebuild the United States economically, physically, and socially, as well as reconsidering Black Americans in society, as a result of the Civil War. The Civil War lead to many advancements. Evidently, slavery was the most primary, but there was a growth in the power of federal government as the north industry increased and new railroad and currency systems developed. The political economy was being revolutionized.  It was up to Abraham Lincoln to direct and lead in order to successfully restore the country. Lincoln explains in his Second Inaugural Address, “‘With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.'” This shows following the war Lincoln wanted to stabilize and repair the country peacefully.  Lincoln’s plan consisted of three main goals for Reconstruction: repair the union, convert the Southern society, and authorize the rights of the freed slaves. Abraham Lincoln began to organize the Reconstruction plan in the year of 1863. He provided the Emancipation Proclamation which ordered America to abolish slavery only in areas of revolt. Federal troops were placed in Southern states to keep the peace, guarantee the Reconstruction procedure, and keep former slaves protected. To permanently abolished slavery, Congress added the Thirteenth Amendment that required slavery to be abolished throughout the country. Nevertheless, things changed after Lincoln’s death.   After Lincoln was assassinated, Andrew Johnson took over the presidency. His goal was to pursue with Lincoln’s Reconstruction strategies, but his motives were entirely different. In the article, “Andrew Johnson: Impact and Legacy”, Elizabeth Varon writes, “…historians view Andrew Johnson as a rigid, dictatorial racist who was unable to compromise or to accept a political reality at odds with his own ideas.” This shows his unwillingness to understand and because of his actions, it turned people against him. Johnson began by providing commands for electing governors for the Southern states; arranging minimum qualifications for states to rejoin the Union and giving no requirements to give African Americans rights. Once he completed this step, he believed that Reconstruction was finished and everyone would continue with their lives. However, Republicans disagreed with Johnson and his actions and thought it was necessary for Congress to take over Reconstruction. Moderate Republicans decided to attempt and pass a law to guarantee the fundamental rights of Blacks, known as the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Johnson vetoed this Act, as well as the Freedmen’s Bureau which was created to supply houses, food, and medical assistance to African Americans and poor whites in the South after the Civil War. Though Congress passes over the vetoes. They proposed the Fourteenth Amendment that provided equal protection and granted citizenship to people born in America, Johnson opposed it but gets passed over. Southern states begin to pass laws that limited African Americans freedom, known as Black Codes. These laws put restrictions on the former slaves such as voting, choice occupations, traveling, and serving on juries. The state legislatures strongly believed that blacks should be inferior. According to a Southern, in the article, ” “Black Codes” of 1865-66″, they show a statement made by a Southern, “‘There is such a radical difference in the mental and moral nature of the white and black race, that it would be impossible to secure order in a mixed community by the same law.'” This shows how Southerners strongly believed that they could not function as a country with African Americans having the same freedoms. Black Codes became the base for Jim Crow Laws that took over for generations to follow. Finally, in March of 1867, Congress passed the Reconstruction Act which abolished the Johnson governments and allowed them to create new governments. The time when Congress took over Reconstruction is referred to as Radical Reconstruction. During this time African Americans welcomed politics. Hundreds of African Americans were elected into offices and Congress established the first public school system.  Many white Southerners would protest with opposing posters, despite the fact, that they benefited from the government. (See Appendix A) The main reason for this was that their closed minds could not obtain the concept of African Americans having any political powers. Most Southerners believed that blacks did not belong in society. According to the article, “Violence and Backlash,” they explained, “The changes in American democracy and society following Emancipation and Reconstruction provoked a violent response from Americans who were opposed to Radical Reconstruction and shocked by the attempt to overthrow white supremacy in Southern society.” This is significant because many whites in the South handled their beliefs in violence and killing, but especially in race riots. The Ku Klux Klan was founded in March 1868; a group that lived all around the Southern states usually prancing on horseback throughout the night in costumes. Their goal was to bring back white supremacy and destroy the Republican party by burning houses, lynching men, raping women, and threatening white Republicans. As Ulysses S. Grant wins the presidency in 1869, he signs the Ku Klux Klan Force Bill in 1871. They began holding KKK hearings, which allowed victims attacked by Klansmen to testify over their experience. According to the article ,”Klansmen Broke My Door Open,”Abram Colby, a former slave that was attacked by the KKK, announces, “‘the Klansmen broke my door open, took me out of bed, took me to the woods and whipped me three hours or more and left me for dead. They said to me, ‘Do you think you will ever vote another damned Radical ticket?’ I said, ‘If there was an election tomorrow, I would vote the Radical ticket.’ They set in and whipped me a thousand licks more, with sticks and straps that had buckles on the ends of them.'” This proves that even though blacks were attacked and harmed, they failed to ruin their social behavior and they fought back by never giving up on what they believed. This is the first time in history where political violence was being investigated in the states. Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870 which allowed righting votes to people no matter color, race, or past enslavement. Democrats started to gain control of Southern states in 1871. Then by 1873, America enters a major economic depression due to Grant administration corruption. It pushes the Reconstruction goal away. Instead, the government started focusing on labor, wealth, and employment, as well as controlling labor strikes that began to take place. Due to the depression, Democrats won control of the House of Representatives in 1874 and federal interventions stopped taking place because Congress could no longer participate. The Republican party struggled going into the election of 1876; the scandals in the Grant administration had damaged the Republican party’s prominence. Rutherford B. Hayes, a politician from Ohio ran for the Republican candidate who had much support. He had served in the war and defended black suffrage and advocated Radical Reconstruction legislation. The Republicans faced a challenging competition up against the Democratic candidate, Samuel J. Tilden, governor of New York. Tilden helped detain the scandalous Tweed Ring, which was a group of fraudulent Democrats that had been running the city of New York for several years. Samuel Tilden also demolished a state’s corrupt canal ring. The main problems the campaigning was focused on was reconstructing and managing the South while also improving civil service work. Both Tilden and Hayes believed in the conservative rule and civil service reform, so they began to use insults and allegations to harm both of their reputations.  By 1875, Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana were the only former Confederate States that still have federal troops stationed. The Republican governments that had been settled, failed and had been replaced with Democratic Redeemer administrations. Violence increased and was specifically directed towards the election. Being violent and threatening black and white Republicans would help win the election, enabling them to take over all the Southern state governments. For example, in the article, “The Southern Three:  Intimidation, Fraud, and Bribery,” they proclaim, “In East Feliciana, Louisiana…the majority of registered voters in 1876 were black and Republican, yet the election results recorded only one Republican vote for the parish.  In South Carolina, the paramilitary Red Shirts were a formidable force in preventing blacks from voting. In Florida, Democrats distributed Tilden tickets decorated with Republican symbols among the illiterate former slaves.” This is significant because in all three Republican states violence and fraud were used to prevent Hayes from winning the election. At the end, Tilden had won the popular vote with 4,284,020 votes, to Hayes 4,036,572. Though what really matter was the electoral college, and that’s where a major conflict came into place. Tilden had won 184 votes, one short of winning the election, while Hayes had 165 which was twenty votes away. Twenty electoral votes remain in dispute between the three Republican-controlled states and a Western state: Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Oregon. In the Southern States, both parties claimed victory and accused the other party of fraud. The Republicans demanded that Hayes was president because Democrats used fraud and violence, but Republicans removed enough Democratic votes for Hayes to win the election. In Oregon, Tilden and the Democrats denied one elector, John Watts because the Constitution said that no elected official should serve as a presidential elector. He resigned a week before the Electoral College meeting. C.A. Cronin, a well-known Democrat, took his position. At the meeting, two Republicans refused to accept Cronin and reauthorized Watts so they cast three votes to Hayes. Then, Cronin reported two votes for Hayes and one for Tilden. The disputed electoral votes remained unknown for months because the Constitution did not have a way to support this conflict.  During this crisis, it created a raging war between the two parties; Discussing the conflict became popular with newspapers, but they avoided mentioning another possible civil war. Democrats threatened to kill if Tilden was not elected and Henry Watts, who was a congressman, threatened to protest in Washington. Also, Democratic newspaper headlines stated, “Tilden or War!” Many Republicans thought it was ridiculous how Congress was going to be able to come up with a fair decision, while Democrats were threatening to start another war. (See Appendix B) At first, the majority of Republicans wanted Senator Thomas Ferry, a Republican, to decide which election returns to count towards the candidates. Whereas other Republicans believed the Supreme Court should make the final decision. The Democrats thought it was necessary for the House of Representative, that was controlled by the Democrats, to join with the Republican-controlled Senate. Two senators proposed solutions for future presidential elections. Senator John Ingalls presented a Constitutional convention to alter presidential election procedures. Senator Oliver Morton revealed a Constitutional amendment to assign the direct popular election to the president and vice president. Although both suggestions failed. Congress brought in a resolution to create a committee to end the conversary. The Electoral Commission Bill would consist of 15 members; five senators, five representatives, and five members of the Supreme Court. They originally planned to select seven Democrats, seven Republicans, and one independent person. However, the committee turned out to have eight Republicans and seven Democrats. When the commission voted on March 5, 1877, the result was 8 to 7, making Hayes the president. The Democrats would not accept Hayes, declaring it unjust. Finally, they approved Hayes victory if he would take the remaining federal troops out of the Southern States and increase funding for the South, formally putting an end on Reconstruction. This is known as the Compromise of 1877. Many people believed that the compromise was a fail to end one conflict and keep another war from erupting. (See Appendix C)  Social and economic freedom among African Americans decreased very steeply because of the compromise. Jim Crow Laws were enforced throughout the states. These laws were to create, ‘”separate but equal’ treatment, but in practice, Jim Crow Laws condemned black citizens to inferior treatment and facilities”(“Jim Crow Laws and Racial Segregation”). This is significant because this shows how after the Reconstruction ended, America was back to being a white supremacy, although they claimed that blacks were equal. While public schools and black churches survived, Jim Crow laws required them to be organized separately, as well as using separate bathrooms, water fountains, and sitting at the end of buses.   The overall impact of ending the Reconstruction caused the North and South to be more divided while the need for racial inequality was forgotten, as Northerners gave up on defending Black rights and Southerners enforced segregation throughout America. However, the Constitution was changed and even though it was ignored, these amendments would be reevaluated in the next century. The decision to remove the remaining federal troops from the South caused more damage than mending America. In the end, the Reconstruction led to change and progress, but the Compromise of 1877 paused these advancements and left the Reconstruction an unfinished revolution.


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