Term Paper: Reconstruction After Civil War

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[. . .] To do this, they shaped Black Codes. While Codes were exclusive to the post-Civil War south, they encompassed some of the antebellum limits on free blacks, northern apprenticeship laws, and the Freedmen's Bureau and the War Department policy. Codes regulated civil and legal rights, from marriage to the right to hold and sell property to the destined definition of African-Americans as agricultural laborers.

Laws were different in each state but most personified the same kinds of restrictions. Commonly, codes compelled freedmen to work. In many states, if unemployed, African-Americans faced the potential of being arrested and charged with vagrancy. Many of those that did work had their day synchronized. Codes dictated Black Codes left African-Americans with little freedom. Even the freedom to chose a type of work was often synchronized. Many white southerners believed blacks were destined to work as agricultural laborers. In addition, the advantage of regulating occupations provided them with laborers. In South Carolina, for example, a special license and certificate from a local judge attesting to a freedman's skill had to be obtained in order to follow work in any occupation other than in agriculture or domestic work. Carter )

Compromise of 1877

Nationally, reconstruction officially ended in 1877. The end was a result of the presidential election of 1876 between Democrat Samuel Tilden and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. There were disputed electoral votes in Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina, the only southern states still under federal activity. To resolve the election, the parties concerned reached a political bargain. The terms of the agreement, which became known as the Compromise of 1877 was that, the disputed votes would go to Hayes. In exchange, the Republicans promised to withdraw the left over federal troops from the South and end Reconstruction. Hayes also agreed to support federal aid for southern improvements and promised to assign a southern Democrat to his cabinet. Most importantly, there was an agreement to leave the South's racial problems to the South. There would be no federal interference in the South's internal affairs. The agreement was really just a symbolic burying of the corpse. In most areas of the South, blacks had effectively been excluded from participation long before the conciliation. The South lost the war and won.

In the Presidential elections of 1876, Democrats had raised several events or charges of irregularities in the southern states: Louisiana, South Carolina and Florida. Here the election boards had calculated the popular votes for the post of President, in favor of the Republicans. The Democrats leveled the charge that the votes there had essentially gone in their favor. The Democrats further questioned the legitimacy of a Republican election in Oregon.

To solve the crises, a commission was set up to decide all the cases in the favor of the Republicans. The dispute went on for several months. Finally, the two parties came to conciliation. By this conciliation, the Democrats agreed not to oppose the selectors. In return, the Republicans agreed that the new Republican government would remove all federal troops from the south. Further, it would give political backing to white southerners and accept economic legislation that would favor southern states.

Hayes, who had expressed consideration for the rights of blacks during the elections, finally misspent their rights in the compromise of 1877. In addition, all Republican efforts to protect Civil Rights in the South were washed out due to political convenience.(Olakoff)


Reconstruction tried to achieve a certain degree of racial egalitarianism of the blacks. Two vital amendments to the constitution: the 14th and 15th amendments - laid the basis for government protection of the civil and political rights of blacks in America. Though the 19th and early 20th centuries saw the exploitation of these amendments by the Supreme Court to protect business corporations from state regulation, those who framed these amendments believed that they were providing a constitutional strengthening for free blacks in the U.S.

In spite of these noble intentions, after more than a century, blacks are still second-class citizens and are denied basic rights. One of the reasons is the government's clemency towards the southern states, which introduced black codes to suppress the Negroes. Secondly, the new governments formed with the help of Black votes were tremendously corrupt. This gave enough excuse for the white southerners to condemn them. Further, the Republicans were not ready to totally break the plantation system in the south under the appearance of respecting the right to property.

The Reconstruction achieved much regardless of its obvious weaknesses. The schools that were built to give education to blacks and the poor whites, the roads that were constructed and the shield given to life and property were certainly key achievements of the government.

Work Cited

Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution.1863-1877, NY: Harper & Row, 1988.

Belz, Herman. A New Birth of Freedom: The Republican Party and Freedmen's Rights, 1861-6.Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, Inc., 1976.

Congressional Globe, 38th, 1st, 1438.

Hyman, Harold M. A More Perfect Union: The Impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction on the Constitution. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973.

Carter, Daniel T. When the War was Over: The Failure of Self-Reconstruction in the South, 1865- 1867. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State… [END OF PREVIEW]

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