The Unfinished Nation: Chapter 15, “Reconstruction and
The New South”
Chapter 15 Main
- Radical Reconstruction changed the South in many
significant ways, but ultimately fell short of the full transformation
needed to secure equality for the freedmen.
- White society and the federal government lacked
the will to enforce effectively most of the constitutional and legal
guarantees acquired by blacks during Reconstruction.
- The policies of the Grant administration moved
beyond Reconstruction matters to foreshadow issues of the late nineteenth
century, such as political corruption and currency reform.
- White leaders reestablished economic and
political control of the South and sought to modernize the region through
industrialization while redrawing the color line of racial discrimination
in public life.
- The race question continued to dominate Southern
life well past Reconstruction into modern times.
A thorough study of Chapter 15 should enable the
student to understand:
- The competing notions of freedom that arose in
the years immediately after the Civil War, and
the attempt by the Freedmen's Bureau to negotiate them.
- The Reconstruction strategy begun by Abraham
Lincoln before his death, and Andrew Johnson's response to it after his
- The differences between Presidential and
Congressional Reconstruction, and the reasons for the transition to the
latter set of policies.
- The meanings of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth
amendments for civil rights in the South.
- The Reconstruction governments in practice, and
Southern (black and white) reaction to them.
- The growth and impact of sharecropping and the
crop-lien system on the economic development of the South and the economic
independence of former slaves.
- The debate among historians concerning the nature
of Reconstruction, its accomplishments, and its ultimate effects on the
- The national problems faced by President Ulysses
S. Grant, and the reasons for his lack of success as chief executive in
the domestic arena.
- The diplomatic successes of Grant's
administrations, including the purchase of Alaska and the settling of the Alabama claims.
- The critical greenback question,
and how it reflected the postwar financial problems of the nation.
- The alternatives available to address the crisis
spawned by the election of 1876, and the effects of the so-called
Compromise of 1877 on Reconstruction.
- The methods used by "Redeemers" in the
South to achieve "home rule", and the social, economic, and
racial decisions made by Southern whites in fashioning the New South.
- The reasons for the failure of the South to
develop a strong industrial economy after Reconstruction.
- The ways in which Southerners decided to handle
the race question, and the origin of the system
of racial discrimination identified with "Jim Crow."
- The response of blacks to conditions in the South
Pejorative term used by Southerners to describe white men from the North, most
of them veterans from the Union army, who moved into the former Confederacy
after the war, often to take advantage of economic opportunities as hopeful
planters, businessmen, or professionals.
in the economic system of the Old South who marketed planters’ crops.
Scalawag Pejorative term used by Southerners to refer
to southerners who cooperated with the Republican regimes of Reconstruction. Scalawags were usually former Whigs who had never
felt comfortable in the Democratic party or farmers
who lived in remote areas where there had been little or no slavery.
Sharecroppin Economic system prevalent in
the South after the Civil War where (often black) tenants worked their own
plots of land and paid their (white) landlords either a fixed rent or a share
of their crop.
Solid South Refers to the fact that the South became
overwhelmingly Democratic as a reaction to Republican actions during the Civil
War and Reconstruction. Democratic domination of Southern politics persisted
for over a century despite occasional cracks, especially in presidential elections.
Spoils System The political equivalent of the military
axiom "To the victor belong the spoils." In the nineteenth century, the victorious political
party in national, state, and local elections routinely dismissed most
officeholders and replaced them with workers loyal to the incoming party. The
"spoils" were the many patronage jobs available in the government. At
the national level, this included thousands of post office and customs
positions. Political organizations especially adept at manipulating spoils to
remain in power were often called machines. Civil-service reformers demanded
that non-policymaking jobs be filled on the basis of competitive examinations
and that officeholders would continue in office as long as they performed
Unionists Residents of the Confederate states who
counseled against secession and who often remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War. Unionists were more common in upcountry regions of
the South, where the slave-based plantation economy was less influential than
in coastal areas of the South. Some Unionists left the South during the Civil
War, but many remained.
Veto/Pocket Veto The president's refusal to
sign a bill passed by Congress. He must send it back to Congress with his
objections. Unless two-thirds of each house votes to override the president's
action, the bill will not become law. A pocket veto occurs when Congress has
adjourned and the president refuses to sign a bill within ten days. Because
Congress is not in session, the president's action cannot be overridden. (See
the Constitution, Article I, Section 7.)