Across the South, the implementation of Reconstruction policies was achieved in multiple ways. While not always a success, Reconstruction had a definitive impact on the social, cultural economic and financial issues in states throughout the South. It is not clear whether or not Reconstruction was more beneficial to the country or harmful, but it is true, without a doubt, that it had an enormous impact on the Southern states. Both Gilles Vandal and Horace Bond in their articles discuss the impact that Reconstruction had on the southern states of Louisiana and Alabama, respectively.
Both authors view Reconstruction through the same lenses of social and economic impact, but they approach the issues from different directions. It is important to note as well that the two authors are writing some sixty years apart from one another and that surely impacts their assessment of Reconstruction. Writing in 1938, just a few decades after the end of Reconstruction, Horace Bond attempts to “examine both the figures and the facts which compose the now stereotyped picture of Reconstruction in Alabama.
Throughout his article, bond focuses the social and economic factors of Reconstruction in Alabama as being the ones of the most import. Bond argues that although the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves across the South, the freedom that it provided “was freedom as conceived by Alabama planters. ” In other words, although the blacks across the southern states were now free, they were only as free as the elite whites allowed them to be. This directly impacted the social and economic state of Alabama.
And it wasn’t only the newly emancipated blacks that felt the sting of social and economic oppression, poor whites across Alabama found themselves in very nearly the same situation. Indeed, according to Bond, they were “equally aligned in economic antagonism to the interests of the former slaveholding class. ” Reformers of all kinds appeared in Alabama to help mediate the circumstances in which blacks and poor whites found themselves. However, they were anything but successful.
Reconstruction in Alabama became a political battlefield between Radicals and Conservatives. Both sides sought to support African Americans in their struggle against the former slaveholders, but Conservatives only provided the support as long as there was still a definite color line between themselves and the erstwhile slaves. The social status of African Americans and poor whites wasn’t the only problem with Reconstruction, according to Bond. Economic issues played a large role in the state of Reconstruction in Alabama.
The economy across the South after the Civil War was in tatters. Crop prices fell and rose and the economy could not sustain the amount of newly freed slaves. The need for African American workers dropped across the state because “the entire system had lost its structure. ” The Civil War had disrupted the economy across the South and Reconstruction and peace could not fix it. Many loans had been issued across the state and the fact that many loans could not be paid back and a rash of bankruptcies only led to a continued poor economy.
Indeed, it is one of Bond’s many arguments that banks and railroads were perhaps the real driving force behind the collapse of Reconstruction and that the “Carpetbaggers, the Scalawag, “Nigger domination,” and even the Ku Klux Klan, were not the principal heroes, or the villains, of the Reconstruction period in Alabama. Gilles Vandal argues some of the same principles in his article. Vandal, like Bond, focuses on the social and economic factors of Reconstruction in Louisiana. Vandal, though, does have the benefit of writing his article in 1997, perhaps almost a hundred ears after the end of the Reconstruction period.
However, while Bond had focused on the impact of the social and economic factors on the state of Alabama, Vandal provides a look at how those social and economic factors were tied to crime in Louisiana. For Vandal, the end of the Civil War produced “not only then emancipation of slaves, but a new land of economic ruin and social disruption. ” This is very similar to the theory put forth by Bond. Although the slaves were now freed, neither the social nor the economic situation in L benefitted from emancipation.
Again, in agreement with Bond, Vandal argues that it wasn’t only the newly freed slaves who struggled to adjust to the new way of life in Louisiana, whites were affected as well. The African Americans in Louisiana struggled to find a place for themselves and a way to support their families. Vandal argues that “the precarious condition and vulnerability of the lower classes” made them more “sensitive to economic depressions or to increases in the price of goods. ” And it is no surprise that those people who couldn’t afford to support themselves or their families would turn to crime.
African Americans in Louisiana had to fight against a white regime that still saw them as a less than human and the poor whites now had to compete with blacks for land and jobs. Because of this situation, many of both groups turned to thievery and robbery to support their families. Farm animals and livestock were especially prone to being stolen as they were items that could provide both food and other necessities for poor families. Vandal also notes that there were those who stole simply to make money. This rise in crime saw an equal rise in the formation of vigilante groups.
Vandal argues that the social and economic factors in Louisiana were responsible for the rise in crime in the period directly following the Civil War. While his focus on social and economic factors is similar to Bond’s, Bond focuses on the larger picture and Vandal is more concerned the crime that was a result of the end of the war and beginning of Reconstruction. Both Bond and Vandal are quick to recognize that Reconstruction not only affected newly emancipated slaves, but also the poor white community in both Alabama and Louisiana as well.
Earlier in this comparison, it was mentioned that the two authors were writing some sixty years apart, but this doesn’t seem to have had as a great an impact as originally thought. Both authors recognize that although the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War freed the slaves across the South, that freedom was only as good as the people in power. In conclusion, both of these authors have identified several factors that had an important impact on the implementation of Reconstruction and the problems that arose from that period in American history.