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Unformatted text preview: Preserving the Constitution: The Conservative Basis of Radical Reconstruction Author(s): Michael Les Benedict Reviewed work(s): Source: The Journal of American History, Vol. 61, No. 1 (Jun., 1974), pp. 65-90 Published by: Organization of American Historians Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1918254 . Accessed: 24/01/2012 21:25 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Organization of American Historians is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Journal of American History. http://www.jstor.org Preserving theConstitution: The Conservative BasisofRadical Reconstruction MICHAEL LES BENEDICT IN the 1950s and especiallythe 1960s,Reconstruction historyunderwent its own reconstruction. As twentieth-century Americansbecamemoreand moreawareof theirown racialcrisis,historiansreassessedtheracialcrisis whichfaced theirancestors,bringingto the professionand to the public a new appreciationof theproblemsAmericansfacedin restoringnational and stategovernments in which the personal and civil rightsof black Americanswould be protectedforthefirsttime.'Historianshave reevalu- atedthemotivesof theso-calledRadicalRepublicans,thecharacterof Presi- dentAndrewJohnson,and theverynatureof theissueswhichconfronted AmericansaftertheCivil War. But theyhave notyetreevaluatedthecon- stitutionalframeworkwithinwhichReconstruction proceeded,despitethe factthat,in Eric L. McKitrick'swords,constitutional limitationsformed "an indispensablepartof theframeworkwithinwhichmenthoughtin the nineteenthcentury."2Most recentscholarshave abandonedtheprejudicial Michael Les Benedictis assistantprofessorof historyin Ohio StateUniversity. 1 See Fawn M. Brodie, Thaddeus Stevens: Scourge of the South (New York, 1959); LaWanda Cox and JohnH. Cox, Politics,Principle,and Prejudice 1865-1866: Dilemma of ReconstructionAmerica (New York, 1963); David Donald, The Politicsof Reconstruc- tion 1863-1867 (Baton Rouge, 1965); John Hope Franklin,Reconstruction:Afterthe Civil War (Chicago, 1961); Harold M. Hyman,ed., The Radical Republicansand Re- construction1861-1870 (Indianapolis, 1967); Eric L. McKitrick,Andrew Johnsonand Reconstruction(Chicago, 1960); James M. McPherson, The Struggle for Equality: Abolitionistsand the Negro in the Civil War and Reconstruction(Princeton, 1964); Willie Lee Rose, Rehearsalfor Reconstruction:The Port Royal Experiment(Indianapolis, 1964); KennethM. Stampp,The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877 (New York, 1965); Benjamin P. Thomas and Harold M....
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