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PinkMonkey Study Guide - American History

6. 4 Radical Reconstruction in the South

The new government in the south was the most progressive the region had ever seen. Supported by an almost unanimous black vote and in some states by a stable minority of whites the Republicans were elected to office. The mostly white Republican leaders established the first state-supported free public school system in the south. They made labor laws fairer to employees and tax laws more equitable. They also eliminated racially discriminatory laws and tried to promote economic development. In the process the Republicans raised taxes much higher than southerners were used to. This affected all the states in the 1870s. This served to alienate many southern whites who resented the system of racial equality. These southern whites charged the Republicans with misgovernment and called them corrupt Carpetbaggers (transplanted Northern Republicans). Unable to erode the black support for Republicans with promises, many white southerners resorted to force through the Ku Klux Klan and other organizations. By 1875, all but three southern states: South Carolina, Louisiana and Florida were back in the hands of Southern Democrats. They discontinued most of the Republican reforms and began to suppress the freedom of blacks.

The election of 1868 brought the Republican candidate, general Ulysses S. Grant to the presidential post. The election was fought over the Reconstruction issue. While Democrats denounced it as unconstitutional and called it military despotism, the Republicans believed that the Radical Reconstruction program was necessary to save the Union. On assuming office, Grant supported the radical Reconstruction program and implemented it with zeal.

One of the main economic issues that the new President faced was what was to be done about the greenback dollars printed during the Civil War. There were about $ 400 million of these notes in circulation after the war. The gold value of each greenback dollar was 73 cents. Inspite of opposition from debtor groups (like farmers) the Congress adopted the Resumption Act (1875). Through this act, the government would exchange gold dollars for greenback notes after January 1, 1879. The act was in contravention of the Supreme Court ruling in the Hepburn versus Griswold case (1870). The greenbacks were not legal tenders; therefore, they could not be used as payment of debts incurred before the war. The President appointed 2 new judges who were opposed to this ruling (1870). The judges Strong and Bradley reversed the previous judgment by a five to four vote in the Know versus Lee case (1871).

Another economic issue that the government faced was that of tariffs. Liberal Republicans and Democrats in the Congress wanted lower tariffs as higher tariffs raised the price of goods affecting the consumer. An important lobby representing the business section successfully persuaded the Congress to retain high tariffs. In fact, between 1870 and 1872, tariffs were made higher.

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Table of Contents

6.0 - Chronology of Major Events in this Period
6.1 - 14th Amendment to the Constitution
6.2 - The President's Impeachment
6.3 - The 15th Amendment
6.4 - Radical Reconstruction in the South
6.5 - The KU Klux Klan
6.6 - The Civil Rights Act
6.7 - The Compromise of 1877
6.8 - The Impact of Reconstruction
6.9 - Points to Remember

Chapter 7


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