Another crucial economic development of the

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Another crucial economic development of the Reconstruction era was the transformation of the southern system of credit. Prior to the Civil War, the South’s system of credit had ultimately rested on cotton and with British traders. That is, southern planters borrowed against their projected earnings in cotton. This system of credit was shattered by the Civil War, and the South became a credit poor region for decades to come. White landowners had land but no cash to pay laborers; former slaves had labor but no cash or credit to buy land. As a result, a system of sharecropping emerged in the South that enabled landowners to secure labor and workers to secure access to land. Little if any cash was exchanged in the system of sharecropping; both the landowner and the laborer received cash only at the end of the growing season when harvested cotton was sold at the market. In this new economy, the most important source of credit was the local store where agricultural supplies and food were purchased. In other words, the local merchant, not some distant British cotton trader, was the immediate source of credit. And the local merchant’s source of credit was American banks, which, as a result of Republican policies, now had to meet national standards. In short, the South was effectively brought into a national system of credit and labor as a result of Reconstruction. “Free” labor, rather than some system of coerced labor would prevail in the region. Neither serfdom nor peasantry would replace slavery. And southern landowners and freedmen, whether they wanted to or not, were incorporated into the national credit markets. Let us now take stock of the answers to the questions that we began with. On what terms would the nation be reunited? In short, on national terms. Property was not expropriated or redistributed in the South. Reforms that were imposed on the South—the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, for example—applied to the entire nation. What implications did the Civil War have for citizenship? The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments represented stunning expansions of the rights of citizenship to former slaves. Even during the depths of the Jim Crow era in the early twentieth century, white supremacists never succeeded in returning citizenship to its pre-Civil War boundaries. African Americans especially insisted that they may have been deprived of their rights after the Country store, Jenkins County, Georgia.
Civil War but they had neither surrendered nor lost their claim to those rights. What would be the future of the restored nation’s economy? In simplest terms, Abraham Lincoln’s famous observation that a house divided cannot stand was translated into policy. However impoverished and credit starved, the former Confederacy was integrated back into the national economy , laying the foundation for the future emergence of the most dynamic industrial economy in the world. African Americans would not be enslaved or assigned to a separate economic status. But nor would African Americans as a group be provided with any resources with which to compete.

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