Was Reconstruction a “Splendid Failure”?
Reconstruction was a failure. It had two main goals, which were to bring the South back into the Union and bring blacks into society. These goals were at odds with each other and could not be met at the same time. Therefore, Johnson chose the first option and allowed the South within the Union, but left the second option basically for people to figure out which was not a success. All in all it was a failure socially, economically, and politically.
Socially, Reconstruction was responsible for creating a permanent grudge between the North and the South. In addition, the 13-15th amendments supposedly granted "freedmen" a host of social and political freedoms. However, due to weak Northern policy, Southern grudges were allowed to ferment in the form of black codes and in the form of white supremacy groups such as the KKK. Effectively free blacks had their freedoms but they had little freedom to exercise them. Tensions between blacks and whites also manifested in poll taxes which were meant to keep sharecroppers from affording to vote. Ultimately the South felt wronged by the actions of the North and many Southerners remained adamant that secession had been the right choice. This bitterness between the two regions would lead even to locking newly elected Southerners out of Congress as well as a host of other mistrusts.
Economically there was even further separation between the North and South, with the Southern economy destroyed and the Northern economy flourishing. Rampant destruction by Union troops, such as the destruction of railroads and the burning of towns, paralyzed the South. Despite the Freedmen's Bureau, free blacks received little land and they remained in much of the same economic condition as before the war.
Politically, Reconstruction would have been aided by able leaders, but from the beginning there was a clash of ideals. Lincoln's 10% plan would allow seceded states to swiftly rejoin the union...
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