Patriot's History: Reconstruction (Chap 10)

Song from a Cotton Field, Bessie Brown
No More My Lawd (Negro Prison Song)
There is a Balm in Gilead (Negro Spiritual)
Pharaoh's Army (Negro Spiritual)

The war was done, and blacks were free,
but lasting peace was not to be:
Jim Crow prolonged their agony.
The ravaged South's economy
was dormant. Graft and bribery
in government hurt industry.

The end of war, a steamboat filled with Northern boys
exploded, and for fifteen-hundred men the joys
of lives renewed were not to be. And in the South
a ragged woman holds her babe, its tiny mouth
deprived of food too long a time, as angry crowds
attack and loot the Capital amidst the clouds
of dust and cinder. Futile, then, to comprehend
the value of a war that didn't want to end.
Yet Richmond saw the glory, too, of former slaves
ascending to the State House grounds amidst the waves
of Union troops protecting them. And "Glory Be!"
to Lincoln as he shared the black man's ecstasy.
So Reconstruction - "forty acres and a mule" -
began, but under Andrew Johnson, much a tool
of Southern thinking, former slaves would find it hard
to thrive, though all the South would struggle: with regard
to economics, Southern industry lost ground
before the war! While war-trained Northern men had found
employment, broad corruption in the South, before
and after war, would make it painful to restore
commercial growth. The Freedmen's Bureau did its best
to educate and nurture former slaves oppressed
by racists - many blacks became entrepreneurs -
and scalawag and carpetbagger overtures
to help the black had some effect. But amnesty
for Southern whites (as Johnson forged a policy
supporting poor white voters) kept the land away
from blacks; so "Share-Crop" deals (an effort to obey
free-market forces) were devised. But Jim Crow laws
and violence from Ku Klux Klan attacks were cause
for black decline. The Radical Republicans,
opposed to Johnson, urged that all Americans
be judged the same, and with a "bloody shirt" in court
(a victim of the lawless Southland?) they'd exhort
the Senate to impeach. With evidence unfit
to prove the case, it was essential to acquit.
With black support, reluctant hero U.S. Grant
won '68. Big government would disenchant
the public with a string of scandals, and reform
opposing Tweed corruption brought a storm
of controversy. Liberal Republicans
and Horace Greeley ("West, young man!") opposed the sins
of patronage and Reconstruction, seeing trade
as key to progress. Thus the Liberal crusade
reduced the government, and set a precedent
that guided policy for every President
(Republican) till recent years. Big government,
neglect of party rules, and party discontent
would doom the South to years of failed economy
and Ku Klux Klan abuse, although a small degree
of progress for the former slave would come with men
like Booker Washington. And as we'd see again
(with Bush and Gore), a controversial vote dispute:
the Democrats cry fraud, Republicans refute
the charge, with Florida the center of it all.
But Hayes, an honest man, would help to overhaul
his party's image, and concede to Southern groups
on crucial issues, like removing all the troops.

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