After the Civil War, the Southern United States was in ruins from all the battles that had taken place. Damage had been done, and repairs had to be made. This repairing process was dubbed “Reconstruction,” and it managed to last for 12 years along with having attained a diverse amount of political opinions regarding the concept. Overall, Reconstruction was a failure because of the South’s lack of obedience towards the North’s plan and the North giving up on the process too soon, when the correct time to stop would be years after the South was feeling they were being accepted back in the Union.
One of the main reasons Reconstruction did not work out is that the South disobeyed the North’s plan for their regrowth back into society. The former Confederate states really only joined the Union because of their relation to Andrew Johnson’s racist and isolationist personality. This meant they had no interest in continuing Reconstruction once Ulysses Grant, a radical Republican, took over office and joined the already Republican-dominant Congress who only made the matter worse for Southerners.
The first real effort made by Southern states to restrain the rights of black people within their vicinity was to begin passing laws commonly called Black Codes around the year 1866, as explained in the following quote, “Southern states pass ‘Black Codes’ limiting freedoms of Black Southerners. ” (Timeline, 2) Instead of integrating the races as intended, the South wanted to return to ways where lighter skin was always more powerful, which was against the will of the government.
So, to achieve their vision of how politics should be executed they turned to violence, to threaten black people to stay away from all political activity, as mentioned in the History Alive! textbook, “Throughout the South, whites formed secret societies to drive African Americans out of political life. ” (History Alive, 318) The fact that white terrorism was even tolerated in the first place is shocking. It also further shows how the South wanted their own way of life, which only involved white Democrats and supposedly needed to exclude black people.
The most infamous of all the white terrorist groups was the Ku Klux Klan, which is still active today with their intimidation and ongoing hate for those of color. That mindset of always putting the white race on top of the pyramid extended beyond not just political matters, but social as well. In the second-to-last installment of the Robert Smalls play, a theoretical former Confederate planter passionately exclaimed how he, a Southerner, didn’t want to be like a Northerner along with many others as per the Civil War, and how everything was fine before they invaded. Play, 17)
This was the ultimate form of the South’s ongoing rebellion, simply refusing to promote the ideas of Northerners. Instead, they vowed to live their own way of life, and in such a way that it made them a completely separate society with vastly different rules and opinions about racial justice. As a result, the general sense surrounding how the Civil War occurred leans a lot more in the direction of the Union entering the territory of rebels who have a cause rather than protecting the “no secession” clause only semi-mentioned by the Constitution.
The South clearly did not want to cooperate, and neither did the North after a few years. Another reason Reconstruction was unsuccessful is how the North gave up on the process too soon. Rather than keeping the pressure up until a solid agreement was made, they grew fatigued and let chaos erupt much too early. An example of this adds on to the false guilt already held by Americans over the war. It was a legal act, the Amnesty Act of 1872, that brought former Confederates back into politics as stated here, “Amnesty Act gives former Confederates their right to vote back. (Timeline, 2)
By having genuinely felt sorry for limiting the rights of former men who were rebelling against the government, the North was not doing themselves any favors by having let them back into the equation, especially considering how much harm the South created. This was like a second ending to Reconstruction in that the same amount of sympathy was being enacted upon. At first, the South is being told they are de facto independent and have freedom to do what they want. Then, the men who created such an imbalance are re-included into politics out of a letdown of Congress’s character.
Neither of the events made proper sense, and as a result of their sequence Reconstruction diminished completely. Next, a Senator explained to Robert Smalls in the final act of the Robert Smalls play, contextually in the late 1870’s, that many Northerners are glad the slaves are free, however they aren’t ready for equality. And obviously, Southerners feel negative about anything related to equality. (Play, 21) Upon realizing what the result of a successful Reconstruction would require, near total equality between all races, the North ultimately decided that it was too much to tolerate and soon after the government officially gave up.
This was done by then President Rutherford Hayes, who made the decision in 1877 as covered in this quote, “Once in office, President Hayes withdrew all remaining federal troops from the South. After that, Democrats quickly took control of the last southern states. ” (History Alive, 319) By pulling out all troops from the South, the North gave up on Reconstruction and took a huge step backward, considering that a vast majority of the black American population was in such danger from the harm powered by the racial prejudice most Southerners possessed for them.
Since that kind of prejudice was so substantial as a concept, nobody was in a strong enough position to effectively stop it. It had the potential to turn into a horrible string of events, and it did. In the end, Reconstruction failed because the South did not comply with the North’s blueprint for them, and after so much discompliance the North stopped trying to control the issue.
Despite Reconstruction seeming like it had bonded the country back together after rebellion, America in reality was just pulled further apart after it was all done and dusted, economically and culturally. If one side resists change proposed by the other side without contemplating, they are delusional. And if the other side gives up because of the resistance, they should become apprehensive and know that everyone and everything will return to square one with zero progress made.