Radical Reconstruction in the South Prior to the Fifteenth Amendment, Lincoln and Johnson had both suggested providing suffrage gradually, using education, property, or military service as qualifications. The Republican Party was hesitant to go farther, seeing blacks as second class citizens. However, this changed to a determination to allow former slaves to vote, despite many Northern blacks not being allowed to do so. After black men were allowed to vote, they began to organize politically, most prominently in the Union League in the North, a network of clubs who supported Republican candidates, built black churches and schools, represented blacks in disputes, and formed militias to protect black communities. Though black women couldn’t vote, they still did things like participate in rallies and help to assemble community meetings. In the South, black men also found political opportunity as delegates in the constitutional conventions, federal congressmen, lieutenant governors, and local officials. Their presence angered many previous slaveholders. They also hated supporters of freedmen such as the scalawags, former Whig or Unionist Southerners, and carpetbaggers, Northerners who had
moved to the South after the war seeking to modernize it. Both parties were painted as thieving or greedy. The Reconstruction governments ended up passing many reforms, including public schools, public works, property rights for women, and better tax systems. Despite this, graft was common, though not worse than in the North. The Ku Klux Klan Some Southern whites, in order to fight the Reconstruction, formed secret societies, the most famous of which was the Ku Klux Klan formed in 1866. The Ku Klux Klan often visited black people’s homes at night, pretending to be ghosts to scare them, or beat them if necessary. Many former slaves and carpetbaggers avoided the polls as a result, while those who persisted were often assaulted or killed. In response, Congress passed the Force Acts (1870-1871), which allowed federal troops to fight it down. By that time, though, most of these groups fell back, continuing their work while pretending to be dancing clubs or the like. Beyond such societies, the South systematically disenfranchised blacks, using techniques such as disproportionately giving impossible literacy tests to blacks. The Aftermath of Reconstruction Johnson’s Impeachment Dissatisfied with Johnson’s vetoes, the Radicals made false accusations against him concerning his sexual practices, and decided to impeach him. They started by pushing the Tenure of Office Act (1867), which required the president to get the consent of the Senate to remove Senate-approved appointees. One result of this was keeping Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton in office, who was a spy for the Radicals. After dismissing Stanton in 1868 without the approval of Senate, the House voted to impeach Johnson for breaking the Tenure of Office Act, as well as for various misdemeanors related to verbal assaults on Congress.
- Fall '16
- Dennis Tynan
- Civil War, Slavery in the United States, American Civil War, free soil party