I’m still studying the Reconstruction era.
In this decade, we got the Thirteenth Amendment (1865), the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Reconstruction Act of 1867, the Fourteenth Amendment (1868), the Fifteenth Amendment (1870), the three Force Act Acts (1870-1875) and the Civil Rights Act of 1875 which had the cumulative effect of overturning the American Founding and creating the liberal state. It was the founding of the American Empire.
The following excerpt comes from Eric Foner’s The Second Founding: How The Civil War And Reconstruction Remade The Constitution:
“Despite its real limitations, the Fifteenth Amendment was a remarkable achievement in the context of nineteenth-century American history. It affirmed that only a few years after the death of slavery African-Americans were now equal members of the body politic.”
As Eric Foner explains, the abolition of slavery in the Thirteenth Amendment forced the question of the status of the free negro in both the North and South. This inexorably led to citizenship and basic civil rights in the Civil Rights Act of 1866. The constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 was dubious in light of the Dred Scott decision. This led in turn to the Reconstruction Act of 1867, which dissolved the Southern states, enfranchised blacks and placed the former Confederate states under military rule (strangely, the sovereign states couldn’t secede from the Union, but they could be unilaterally expelled from it by the Republican Congress), and the Fourteenth Amendment which was the condition of readmitting the Southern states to the Union.
Black suffrage in the Fifteenth Amendment was the culmination of abolitionism. There had been a seamless transition from abolitionist radicalism to civil rights radicalism because both had been inspired by liberalism.
“Abolitionists hailed the amendment as the culmination of the antislavery crusade, the “most important victory” the movement had achieved. “Never was revolution more complete,” declared a euphoric Frederick Douglass at a celebration in Albany. “We have all we asked, and more than we expected.” “Nothing in all history,” William Lloyd Garrison exulted, equaled “this wonderful, quiet, sudden transformation of four million of human beings from the auction block to the ballot-box.” Having decided not to dissolve after the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, the American Anti-Slavery Society now deemed its work complete. Its annual meeting of May 1869, shortly after congressional approval, declaring the amendment “the capstone and completion of our movement; the fulfillment of our pledge to the Negro race.” It urged abolitionists to fight one last battle – for ratification – and made the unusual suggestion that Congress carve new states out of Texas (as authorized by the 1845 joint resolution annexing the Lone Star Republic) if necessary to secure ratification.”
The Force Acts were used to put down the Klan:
“Republicans understood that military force was sometimes crucial to blacks’ ability to exercise their new rights without violent retribution. Although the army’s record concerning treatment of blacks was hardly without flaws, from the earliest days of Reconstruction its presence had enabled freedpeople to try to breathe meaning into the freedom they had acquired. The use of the army in civil affairs was antithetical to democratic traditions. Nonetheless, in 1871 and 1872 President Grant used the powers granted to him by the Enforcement Acts to crush the Ku Klux Klan. Federal marshals arrested Klansmen in numerous parts of the South. In North Carolina, the army, which had stood by for two years without acting, effectively suppressed the organization. The president suspended the writ of habeas corpus in nine South Carolina counties wracked by violence. Troops arrested hundreds of Klansmen, and the group’s leaders fled the state. Some sought refuge in Canada, following in the footsteps, ironically, of fugitive slaves before the Civil War. A series of widely publicized trials followed. Overall, between 1871 and 1873, federal prosecutors brought nearly 2,500 criminal cases under the Enforcement Acts, mostly for conspiracy to hinder voting or to deprive a person of equal protection of the laws because of race. They did not charge defendants with murder or assault, to avoid the question of whether the federal government could punish violations of state law.”
The fate of the Klan during Reconstruction is instructive for those who continue to believe that White America can be saved through fed posting and violence. It didn’t work in Reconstruction with battle hardened ex-Confederate soldiers.
Ultimately, it was the sheer passage of time that brought down Reconstruction. The memory of the war and the religious fervor that had inspired it faded. Northerners were fickle and grew tired of dealing with the South’s racial problems. The Gilded Age was beginning and with it new issues came to dominate national politics. This era also overlapped with the rise of Darwinism which discredited racial equality. Republicans in the late 19th century became more concerned with business and materialism than with racial equality. The Fourteenth Amendment was mainly interpreted by the Republican-dominated Supreme Court to protect the rights of corporations.