4. Reconstruction: Consummation without Closure
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95 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 4 RECONSTRUCTION: CONSUMMATION WITHOUT CLOSURE In 1868 the central policy motivation that led Ulysses S. Grant to leave his comfortable berth at the head of the army and run for president was his determination to preserve “the results of the costly war which we have gone through.” For Grant, perpetuating those “results” connoted QRWVLPSO\VHFXULQJWKHSHUPDQHQF\RI&RQIHGHUDWHGHIHDWDQGUHXQLÀcation of the nation. Indeed, secession was dead beyond resuscitation. $WVWDNHQRZZDVWKHVKDSHRIWKHQHZO\FRQÀJXUHGVRXWKHUQVRFLHW\ that the death of slavery had wrought. His campaign watchword, “Let XVKDYHSHDFHµVLJQLÀHGQRWRQO\WKHFHVVDWLRQRIKRVWLOLWLHVEHWZHHQ North and South but also the fashioning of a peaceful coexistence beWZHHQ EODFNVDQGZKLWHV$IWHUIRXU\HDUVRIÀJKWLQJEHWZHHQ$QGUHZ -RKQVRQDQG&RQJUHVV*UDQW·VDFFHVVLRQWRR΀FHRSHQHGWKHSRVVLELOLW\ for an essential congruence between “presidential” and “congressional” Reconstruction. For most of the next eight years, the southern question stood at the top of the administration’s domestic agenda.1 $VSUHVLGHQW*UDQWÀUVWDLPHGIRUWKHVSHHG\UHVWRUDWLRQRIWKH southern states as “peaceful and orderly communities” that would “effectually secure the civil and political rights of all persons.” This goal was consistent with his role as leader of his party, for he fully embraced the notion that the completion of Reconstruction not only depended on but also would ensure the retention of power by the Republicans. But IUDPLQJD´VRXWKHUQµSROLF\SRVHGHQRUPRXVGL΀FXOWLHV)RURQHWKLQJ CHAPTER 4 96 “the South” was a term of convenience that obscured wide variations among individual states, each with its own history, factions, and demographic makeup. Some southern states had black majority populations , while others, especially the Border States, counted relatively few African Americans. From state to state, the proportion of blacks, carpetbaggers , and scalawags in the Republican coalition varied, but in each VWDWHWKHSDUW\ULVNHGGLVUXSWLRQE\IDFWLRQDOÀJKWVRYHUR΀FHVDVZHOO DVSROLF\%ODFNVVKXWRXWRIJRYHUQPHQW·VEHQHÀFHQFHIRUFHQWXULHV sought redress through programs such as state-funded education, while many whites favored either pursuing austerity or, conversely, devoting state resources to economic development. Some states had shown robust two-party competition before the war, and now quondam Whigs saw much to admire in the Republican Party’s economic policies, while Democrats clung to minimalist notions of government. On top of the social and political multiformity in the South, at the national level the truce between Republican radicals and moderates that had enabled Grant’s nomination proved transitory. Before long, new antagonisms HQFXPEHUHGHͿRUWVWRIUDPHDFRKHUHQWVRXWKHUQSROLF\2 'HVSLWHWKHVHGL΀FXOWLHVKRZHYHU&RQJUHVVDQGWKHSUHVLGHQWSURvided immediate evidence of a new working relationship. Less than two weeks after Grant’s inauguration, Congress passed a law to eliminate the word ZKLWH from statutes relating to the District of Columbia so as WREDQGLVFULPLQDWLRQLQR΀FHKROGLQJDQGMXU\VHUYLFH*UDQWGLGQRW KHVLWDWHWRD΀[KLVVLJQDWXUH$OWKRXJKWKHPHDVXUHKDGOLPLWHGVFRSH as a New England newspaper observed, it provided “an indication of the character of the administration.”3 ,QWKH6RXWKWKHÀUVWRUGHURIEXVLQHVVZDVWRGHDOZLWKWKHWKUHH states not yet readmitted to the Union under the congressional program adopted in 1867: Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas. Grant aimed to expedite their return and thereby conclude Reconstruction. In the administration ’s early weeks, Washington teemed with southerners angling WRLQÁXHQFHWKHSUHVLGHQWDQG&RQJUHVV*UDQWPHWZLWKDJURXSIURP Mississippi, where a year earlier a popular vote had defeated the adopWLRQ RIDQHZVWDWHFRQVWLWXWLRQWKDWZRXOGKDYHJXDUDQWHHGVXͿUDJH and other rights to blacks but also included provisions disfranchising ex-Confederates. Grant and the Mississippians discussed the possibility of holding a new referendum, with separate votes on the main constitution and the disfranchisement sections. As one conservative put it, the president “proposes that the constitution be again submitted to the people so that they may vote upon those parts which are acceptable and RECONSTRUCTION 97 against those parts which are objectionable.” In early April Grant and a committee of Virginia conservatives discussed a similar separate vote IRUWKDWVWDWH&RQYLQFHGWKDWWKLVSURFHGXUHRͿHUHGIDLUQHVVWRDOOLQWHUests , the president ordered Attorney General E. Rockwood Hoar to draft a message asking Congress for the authority to set such a vote in the Old Dominion. Although little time remained for action...


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