GML, Chapter 15: "What Is Freedom?": Reconstruction, 1865–1877
I. History of the Definition of Freedom:
A. Colonial & Early Republican Period:
1. Availability of Land:
a. Benjamin Franklin (1755): “But not withstanding this increase [in
population], so vast is the territory of North America, that it will require
many ages to settle it fully; and till it is fully settled, labour will never be
cheap here, where no man continues long a labourer for others, but gets a
Plantation of his own, no man continues long a journeyman to a trade,
but goes among those new settlers and sets up for himself, etc. Hence
labour is no cheaper now in Pennsylvania than it was thirty years ago,
tho’ so many thousands laboring people have been imported.”
2. Size & Scale of America
a. J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur (1782): “An European, when he first
arrives, seems limited in his intentions, as well as in his views; but he
very suddenly alters his scale; two hundred miles formerly appeared a
very great distance, it is now but a trifle; he no sooner breathes our air
than he forms schemes and embarks in designs he never would have
thought of in his own country. There the plenitude of society confines
many useful ideas and often extinguishes the most laudable schemes,
which here ripen to maturity. Thus Europeans become Americans.”
3. Respectability of Work
a. Benjamin Franklin (1784): “Much less it is advisable for a person to go
thither who has no other quality to recommend him but his birth. In
Europe it has indeed its value; but it is a commodity that cannot be
carried to a worse market than that of America, where people do not
inquire concerning a stranger What is he? but What can he do? If he has
any useful art, he is welcome; and if he exercises it, and behaves well, he
will be respected by all that know him; but a mere man of quality, who,
on that account, wants to live upon the public by some office or salary
will be despised and disregarded.”
B. Thomas Jefferson & Alexander Hamilton: Two Competing Vision of America
1. Thomas Jefferson:
a. A republic of yeoman farmers—independence from the moneyed market.
b. Wealth held in land.
2. Alexander Hamilton:
a. Commerce as the foundation of American success.
b. Wealth held in liquid assets (stocks/bonds)
C. Northern & Southern Economic Systems & Westward Expansion:
1. Northern Economy:
a. Artisanal System: apprentice/journeyman/master
b. Proto-industrial manufacturing system with wage-earning labor force
c. Beginnings of machine manufacturing: New England textile industry &
Connecticut River tool industry
d. Infrastructure: turnpikes, canals (Erie Canal), & railroads
e. Agriculture: small farmers, increasingly growing crops for market
2. Southern Economy:
a. Elite plantation agriculture: cash crops (tobacco, indigo, rice & cotton)
b. Chattel slave workforce
c. Small-landholding white farmers in primarily subsistence agriculture,
sometime owning few slaves
d. Little industrial or infrastructural investment
3. Westward Expansion:
a. Competition over nature of economy and workforce in territories
b. Balance of power in the Senate
c. Plans to Regulate Territorial Expansion:
i. Missouri Compromise (1820): 36° 30’
ii. Compromise of 1850
iii. Kansas-Nebraska Act (Bloody Kansas)
II. Wartime Reconstruction Plans:
A. Three principal questions:
1. What to do with the former Confederate states?
2. What to do with the former Confederates?
3. What to do with the former slaves?
B. Abraham Lincoln’s Plans:
1. Former Slaves:
a. 1862/1863 Promotion of emigration to Haiti
b. Continued emigration to Liberia, established by American Colonization
Society in 1816.
2. Former Confederate States & Confederates:
a. December 1863 “Proclamation of Amnesty & Reconstruction”:
i. Presidential pardon for those individuals taking oath of
allegiance to the United States Constitution & acceptance of the
end of slavery.
ii. Reestablishment of state governments when 10% of 1860
population of men 21-years-old and older took above oath
iii. Process begun in Louisiana, Arkansas & Tennessee.
C. Radical Republicans’ Response:
1. Beliefs of the Radical Republicans:
a. Racial equality
b. Expanded power of the federal government
c. Heartland: New England & rural North
i. Charles Sumner (Massachusetts)
ii. Thaddeus Stevens (Pennsylvania)
2. Opposed above for not granting blacks the right to vote and for maintaining
restrictive labor regulations
3. July 1864: Radicals proposed a more generous bill that, while not giving blacks
the vote, did provide access to land, that abandoned and confiscated by former
Confederates, and a more stringent loyalty oath for former Confederates.
4. After Union victories in 1864, Lincoln was planning a new Reconstruction plan,
but did not finish it before he was assassinated on 14 April 1865
III. Andrew Johnson & Reconstruction:
A. Democratic senator from Tennessee, who did NOT leave the Senate when the South
B. From eastern Tennessee, region of small farmers who felt exploited by plantation society.
C. Became Vice Presidential candidate of the Union Party, the name taken by the
Republican Party in 1864 to attract War Democrats and border state Unionists.
D. Blanket Amnesty (May 1865):
1. Exception: Confederate government officials, military officers & individuals
with $20,000 in taxable property.
2. Objective: make southern yeoman farmers the backbone of the new South.
3. Johnson eventually granted individual pardons to persons in above groups,
reinstating their claims to property.
4. Some saw this as an effort to win support for his own bid for the presidency in
IV. Initial Efforts at Southern Reconstruction:
A. Lack of Progress on Racial Equality:
1. No state conventions enfranchised African Americans
2. Southern states passed Black Codes, laws closely based on former slave codes.
a. Black codes did recognize African-American marriages, property
ownership, and limited access to the courts.
b. Primary objective was to guarantee a regular and controlled work force
c. Details of Mississippi Black Codes:
i. Blacks had to sign annual labor contract; running away before
the end of the contract resulted in loss of all wages
ii. When asked, blacks had to present a license to work, which
included their place of residence.
iii. Minors were “apprenticed”; males until 21 years old, females
until 18 years old
iv. Vagrants were heavily fined. If the individual could not pay the
fine, they were “hired out” until their fine was paid
v. African Americans required a license to carry knives or fire
arms; whites required no license.
3. Numerous former Confederates elected to state and national office
B. Freedman’s Bureau (March 1865):
1. Agents from the North went to the South in an effort to reconfigure the southern
economy and work force
a. Free Labor:
i. Freed blacks and poor whites would be integrated into a “free
labor” economy, working for wages and gaining access to
ii. The South was be reconfigured to resemble the “free society” of
the North with small towns, public schools, and independent
iii. Initially authorized to distribute abandoned & confiscated land to
former slaves, initially as rental property(forty acres) and later
as personal property
iv. Above idea evolved from General William T. Sherman’s Special
Filed Order #15 (January 1865)
v. With Johnson’s pardons & returning of confiscated property,
Freedmen’s Bureau concentrated on enforcing labor contracts
between white landowners & former slaves
I. Task system (rice/South Carolina & Georgia)
II. Closely supervised wage labor (sugar/southern
III. Sharecropping (cotton, tobacco/Virginia & North
Carolina)—grew in importance as the amount of
currency in the South remained low
b. Social Services:
i. Coordinated & helped to finance the construction & operation of
schools in the South
ii. Administered hospitals established by Union Army & distributed
medical care & drugs to black & white southerners
iii. Issued food rations
C. Share Cropping & Crop Lien Systems:
1. With much of their property destroyed and a series of crop failures, white farmers
turned their attention to growing cash crops—cotton.
2. To pay for seeds, etc., farmers pledged a certain “share” of their crop to local
merchants & large landowners at very high interest rates
3. More whites than blacks worked “share-cropping” land
V. Black & White Response to Change
A. For southern blacks, an expansive quest
2. Autonomous institutions
i. Reuniting families separated under slavery
ii. Adopting separate gender roles
ii. Social events
iii. Political meetings
ii. Establishment of black colleges
3. Political participation
a. Right to vote
b. Engagement in political events
4. Land ownership
B. For southern whites, an imperiled birthright
1. Postwar demoralization
a. Loss of life
b. Destruction of property
c. Draining of planters' wealth and privilege
d. Psychic blow of emancipation
i. Inability to accept
ii. Intolerance of black autonomy or equality
VI. Congressional Republicans vs. Johnson
A. With the South unrepresented in Congress Republicans, especially after 1866 election,
enjoyed an overwhelming majority; yet the party was divided
1. Moderate versus Radical Republicans:
a. Moderates viewed Johnson’s plan as flawed, but were willing to work
b. Moderates believed neither northern nor southern whites would accept
B. Extending life of Freedmen's Bureau & Civil Rights Bill
1. Moderate republican, Lyman Trumbull (Illinois) proposed:
a. Bill to extend the life of the Freedmen’s Bureau
b. Civil Rights Bill:
i. Every person born in the United States is a citizen
ii. Certain rights were to be enjoyed regardless of race
iii. States could NOT enact laws that discriminated between blacks
iv. NO mention was made of giving blacks the right to vote
v. Johnson vetoed both bills, claiming that blacks did not deserve
the vote and that the bills discriminated against whites.
vi. April 1866 Congress overrode Johnson’s veto of the Civil Rights
C. Fourteenth Amendment:
1. June 1866 Congress sent to the states for ratification the 14th Amendment.
a. Citizenship for all persons born in the United States
b. Federal government to protect rights of all Americans
c. Prohibited states from abridging the “privileges and immunities” of
citizens by denying them the “equal protection of the law.”
d. Blacks were NOT granted the right to vote, but states were penalized if
they denied the right to vote to any group of men—representation in
Congress would be reduced
e. No Democrat voted for the Amendment & only four Republicans
f. Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in July 1868
D. Reconstruction Act (1867):
1. Johnson campaigned hard against the 14th Amendment; every southern state,
except Tennessee refused to ratify the 14th Amendment
2. Johnson’s efforts pushed the moderate Republicans closer to the Radicals.
3. Together the republicans passed the Reconstruction Act over Johnson’s veto
a. Divided the South into five military districts
b. Troops stationed in districts to protect freed blacks and guarantee their
right to vote
c. Seen by southerners as an occupation
d. Advent of Radical Reconstruction
E. Tenure of Office Act (1867):
1. Act prohibited president from removing some officeholders, including cabinet
members, without consent of the Senate
2. February 1868: Johnson removed Edwin Stanton (Secretary of War & supporter
of Radical Republicans)
3. House of Representatives brought articles of impeachment against Johnson
4. With Johnson’s lawyers assuring moderate Republicans that Johnson would no
longer interfere with Reconstruction, Senate decision fell one vote short of
VII. 1868 Presidential Election: U. S. Grant vs. Horatio Seymour
A. Reconstruction was the central issue in the election
1. Republican waving of "bloody shirt,” identified democrats with secession &
2. Democrats renounced Reconstruction as unconstitutional, condemned black
suffrage as a violation of American political tradition and appealed openly to
3. EDITORIAL CARTOON: “White Man’s Government”
4. Northern versus Southern Republicans:
a. North: mostly prosperous, educated, and influential elements of society
b. South: mostly poor, illiterate, and landless—80% of southern
Republicans were African Americans
VIII. Fifteenth Amendment & the Significance of "Great Constitutional Revolution"
A. Fifteenth Amendment:
1. Approved by Congress in February 1869
2. Ratified by states in 1870
3. Prohibited federal and state governments from denying any citizen the right to
vote based on race
4. It did NOT extend the right to vote to women
5. Southern states adopted to Amendment by restricting voting by other means:
a. Literacy tests
b. Property qualifications
c. Poll taxes
d. Grandfather clauses come later in the 1890s!
B. Reconstruction Amendments transformed the Constitution from a document
concentrating on federal-state government relations to “a vehicle through which members
of vulnerable minorities could stake a claim to freedom and seek protection against
misconduct by all levels of government”
C. Idea of national citizenry, equal before the law
D. New boundaries of American citizenship
1. Exclusion of Asian immigrants
2. Exclusion of women
a. Unfulfilled campaigns for women's emancipation
b. Split within feminism over Reconstruction amendments: white women
better qualified to vote than uneducated black men
IX. Reconstructed State Governments
A. By 1870 all former Confederate states had been readmitted to the Union and nearly all
were under control of Republicans
B. New public institutions established: public schools, orphan asylums, penitentiaries
C. Abolished whipping as a punishment for crimes, property requirements for holding
office, and imprisonment for debt
D. Black Republicans
1. Highest political offices still held by whites
2. Only in South Carolina did African Americans make up the majority of the state
3. Officeholders at federal, state, and local levels
E. White Republicans
a. Former Union soldiers who decided to stay in the South
b. Investors in land and railroads
c. Looking to take advantage of the reconstructing of the Southern
a. Non-slaveholding white farmers from upcountry
b. Many were wartime Unionists
X. Overthrow of Reconstruction:
A. Rise of the Ku Klux Klan
1. Founded in 1866 as a social club in Tennessee
2. Expanded throughout the South, attracting planters, merchants, and Democratic
3. Came to prominence in 1868 elections:
a. Reign of terror in Georgia & Louisiana
b. Assassination of Arkansas congressman
c. Assassination of three state legislators from South Carolina
d. Targets: Republicans, both white and black, and institutions established
by freed blacks
e. VISUALS OF KU KLUX KLAN
B. Northern response
1. Measures to protect blacks' rights
a. Enforcement Acts of 1870 and 1871: prohibited an individual from
interfering with the civil and political rights guaranteed by the 14th & 15th
b. President Grant sent federal marshals into the South, who, along with
federal troops, shut down the KKK by 1872
c. Civil Rights Act of 1875: outlawed racial discrimination in public
accommodations, such as hotels & theaters
C. Waning Commitment to Reconstruction
1. 1872 Presidential Election:
a. Liberal Republicans (Horace Greeley) sought an end to Reconstruction
and reconciliation with southern whites, as well as a renewed focus on
b. EDITORIAL CARTOON: “Let Us Clasp Hands”
2. 1873 Economic Depression
a. Cause: speculation in railroad stock
b. Unemployment reached 14%
3. 1876 Supreme Court found 1870 & 1871 Enforcement Acts unconstitutional—
Amendments authorized prosecution of states NOT individuals
D. Death throes of Reconstruction
1. 1874 Democratic gains in South; "Redeemers"
2. Election of 1876:
a. Rutherford B. Hayes (R-Ohio) versus Samuel J. Tilden (D-NY)
b. Disputed election results from South Carolina, Louisiana & Florida (only
states still under Republican control), when charges made that blacks
were prevented from voting
c. January 1877 Electoral Commission established to resolve dispute
3. Bargain of 1877:
a. With a one-vote margin the Republicans on the Commission found in
favor of Hayes
b. When certain Democrats in Congress began to voice reservations about
accepting the findings of the Commission, Hayes made a proposal
i. Select a southern for a member of his cabinet (previously
ii. Construct a southern transcontinental railroad
iii. Legislation to aid in the industrialization of the South
iv. Removal of federal troops from last remaining occupied states:
Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana
c. Previously Hayes had voiced support for “home rule”
XI. The 1870s: Depression, Celebration & Strikes:
A. The “Long Depression”:
1. Postwar speculation and over construction in railroads, which was the largest
employer in the United States outside of the federal government at the time.
2. 1871: Newly established Germany decided to no longer mint silver thaler coin,
the ore for which was mined in the American West.
3. 1873: Coinage Act put the United States on a “de facto” gold standard, which
resulted in the federal government’s demand for silver dried up.
4. 1873: Coinage Act also decreased the money supply in the United States
resulting in a significant rise in inflation.
5. Above led to a collapse in the price of silver and significant loses to western
6. Above instability led to investors shying away from long-term investments, such
as the bonds issued by the railroads.
7. September 1873: Jay Cooke & Company, a leading New York banking house,
found itself unable to sell bonds of the Northern Pacific Railway valued at
several million dollars.
8. Resulting economic catastrophe:
a. New York Stock exchange closed for ten days.
b. Number of banks failed.
c. 89 of the country’s 364 railroads went bankrupt.
d. 18,000 businesses failed between 1873 and 1875.
e. Unemployment rose to a high of 14% in 1876.
B. Molly Maguires & Labor Unrest in Pennsylvania Coal Fields:
1. 21 June 1877: Ten Irish immigrants were hanged in Schuykill County,
Pennsylvania on conviction of murder and terrorism charges.
2. Using techniques and tactics transplanted from Ireland in battles by Irish
Catholics against Protestant landowners, the “Mollys” engaged in blowing up
mine openings and assaulting company representative and foremen.
3. 1873: The Reading Railroad, which owned the mines, hired a Pinkerton Guard to
infiltrate the “Mollys” and identify the leaders.
4. On weak evidence, 20 men were arrested and executed.
a. Workingmen’s Benevolent Association was crushed.
b. Catholic Church excommunicated anyone who joined the Ancient Order
of Hibernians, an Irish fraternal organization to which many of the
miners belonged and which was perceived as a front for the “Mollys.”
C. Great [Railroad] Uprising of 1877:
1. Causes: Economic crisis resulting from the 1873 Depression and a series of wage
cuts by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad between 1873 and 1877.
2. 16 July 1877: Railroad workers in Martinsburg, West Virginia walk off the job in
reaction to the latest wage cut.
3. 19 July 1877: newly inaugurated President Rutherford B. Hayes sent federal
troops into Martinsburg to quell the violence.
4. Using the telegraph system used for communication up and down the rail lines,
strikes broke out in Baltimore, where eleven workers were killed and forty
injured by the Maryland state militia, and Pittsburgh, where 20 persons were
5. The strike spread to Chicago and Saint Louis, where it spawned general strikes.
6. The strikes resulted in significant property damage in various cities.
7. Outcome: While a failure, the strikes led to better organizing among the workers,
which would assist them in a series of other strikes in the 1880s and increasing
public awareness of the grievances of the railroad workers.