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THE AMERICAN LAND COMPANY AND AGENCY: John A. Andrew and the Northernization of the South Lawrence N. Powell Ever since revisionists discredited the idea that a conspiracy of northern business interests lay behind Radical Reconstruction, historians have been inclined to play down economic factors in Reconstruction . But it should be borne in mind that Robert Sharkey, Stanley Coben, and Irwin Unger proved only that there were many economic interests during the period, not that there were none.1 In fact, if one looks behind the various conflicts over economic policy, one finds an underlying consensus regarding the role of northern capital and enterprise in the reconstruction of the South—a widespread conviction that the former Confederacy could be "regenerated " only through an infusion of Yankee men and money. Historians have generally overlooked this consensus or underestimated its importance. This viewpoint must not be seen solely in terms of profit narrowly conceived, even though many selfish interests found it a useful rationale for their activities. It was compatible with the philanthropic currents of the era; for nineteenth century economics, as Kenneth Stampp reminds us, was "often pursued with considerable moral passion."2 This view of Reconstruction, of what to do with the South and how to do it, owed a great deal to the free labor ideology that lay at the heart of the Republican party.3 But despite its similarities with the prewar critique of the slave South, it will be prudent to call this viewpoint business Reconstruction. This paper will suggest some of the leading features of the business Reconstruction program 1 Stanley Coben, "Northeastern Business and Radical Reconstruction: A Reexamination ," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XLVI (June, 1959), 67-90; Robert P. Sharkey, Money, Class and Party: An Economic Study of Civil War and Reconstruction (Baltimore, 1959); Irwin Unger, The Greenback Era: A Social and Political History of American Finance, 2865-2879 (Princeton, 1964). 2 Kenneth M. Stampp, The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877 (New York, 1965), p. 107; Willie Lee Rose, Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment (New York, 1864), pp. 227-29. 3 Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War (New York, 1970), pp. 11-72. 293 294CIVIL WAR HISTORY and show how they influenced the thought and action of a prominent anti-slavery politician, John A. Andrew, the Civil War governor of Massachusetts. Although the North was divided on the merits of high tariffs, centralized banking, and hard money, it was convinced that the late Confederacy "presented many openings for northern enterprise."4 The obvious need for economic recovery in the devastated South created many opportunities, but it was the section's untapped natural wealth which held out the greatest allurements. No other region in the world, it was said, boasted such fertile soil, rich and bountiful resources , and advantages for commerce as did the southern states. Slavery had inhibited the full development of the South's potential. But emancipation had removed this obstacle and had thereby opened a vast new field of investment, increased enormously the market for northern manufactures among the former slaves, and stimulated a large demand for outside capital and enterprise. Everything about the South's condition, the Philadelphia Public Ledger proclaimed, now offered "temptations for Northern capital greater even than the 7-30 Government loans." But there were also unlimited opportunities for men of modest means and enterprising immigrants of every sort.5 Arguments in behalf of northern immigration and investment were sometimes couched in the classic language of economic imperialism . A few northerners maintained that the surplus capital and population of the North needed a southern outlet if the original free states were to avert the commercial stagnation that could result as the economy returned to peacetime activity.8 But more often than 4 Boston Daily Advertiser, Aug. 5, 1865. 5 Philadelphia Public Ledger, Apr. 15, 1865; New York Tribune, Sept. 29, 1865; New York Times, June 5, 1865; Commercial and Financial Chronicle, Aug. 12, 26, 1865, Sept. 2, 1865; J.D. Mitchell to the editor, Gainesville Nett; Era, June 22, 1866; John Trowbridge, The South: A Tour of its Battlefields and Ruined Cities, with an introduction by...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 293-308
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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