The Ending Of Reconstruction

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The Civil Rights Act of 1875,

The Radical Republicans’ last successful piece of legislation in Congress was the Civil Rights Act of 1875 . The bill aimed to eliminate social discrimination and forbade discrimination in all public places, such as theaters, hotels, and restaurants. The bill stated that blacks should be treated as equals under the law and that they could sue violators of the law in federal court.

Unfortunately, the act proved ineffective, as Democrats in the House made sure the bill was unenforceable. The act stated that blacks had to file claims to defend their own rights; the federal government could not do it for them. Many blacks were still poor and worked hard to make a living, and House Democrats knew that lawsuits would require money and considerable effort.

Reasons For The End Of Reconstruction,

Ultimately, Reconstruction ended because of several factors. Northerners were tired of a decade of Reconstruction efforts and had become less interested in the South with the rise of speculation and profit-making in the Gilded Age and then the hardships of the Depression of 1873. In addition, the conservative Supreme Court repeatedly struck down Radical Republican legislation, issuing rulings that had a devastating effect on blacks’ civil liberties. Meanwhile, the persistent scare tactics of the Ku Klux Klan and other southern white groups drove many Republicans out of office, giving Democrats a majority in every southern state by 1877. Finally, the Compromise of 1877 and removal of the remaining federal troops from the South signaled the end of the Reconstruction era.

The Successes Of Reconstruction,

Reconstruction was a success in the sense that America, after 1877, could once again be called the United States. All of the southern states had drafted new constitutions; ratified the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments; and pledged loyalty to the Union. Together, the Civil War and Reconstruction also settled the states’ fights vs. federalism debate that had been going on since the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of the 1790s and the Nullification Crisis of the 1830s. As one historian noted, the United States before the Civil War were a country, but the United States after the war was a nation.

Freedom For The Slaves !

The Failures Of Reconstruction,

However, although Reconstruction was a success in a broad sense, it was a failure in several specific ways. The swift changes in political power in the South rendered useless most of the legislation that Radical Republicans had passed through Congress. Rutherford B. Hayes’s removal of federal troops from the South in 1877 allowed many former Confederates and slave owners to regain power, and this return of power to whites also meant a return to the policy of the old South. Southern politicians passed the black codes and voter qualifications and allowed the sharecropping system to thrive—all with the support of a conservative U.S. Supreme Court, whose key court rulings in the 1870s and 1880s effectively repealed the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and the Civil Rights Act of 1875.

As a result, by 1877, northerners were tired of Reconstruction; weary of battling southern elites, scandal, and radicalism; and had largely lost interest in supporting black civil rights. Theoretically, North and South reached a compromise: black civil liberties and racial equality would be set aside in order to put the Union back together. As it turned out, blacks would not regain the support of the federal government until the civil rights movement of the 1960s.