The Goals And Failures Of The First — страница 3

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Afro-Americans, have been predominately powerless economically and politically. This points to the conclusion that the systemic demise of the First Reconstruction stems from the failure of Reconstruction leaders to include economic justice for Blacks as a goal; thus dooming the Reconstruction movement from the outset. The failure of pursuing a policy of economic redistribution forced Blacks into fragile political alliances that quickly disintegrated (as can be seen in 1877 and 1896); Blacks were forced to rely on the Radical Republicans and Federal troops to give them their rights and later their former slave masters, the Southern Democrats, to safeguard their rights.23 The disintegration of these agreements were caused directly by the events that Woodward and Wilson point to,

but these political agreements were inherently fragile and would have inevitably unraveled because of their very nature. These political alliances had conflicting interests. The poor sharecropper and the White elites of the South were inherently unequal. The former slaves were looked on not as equals, but as inferior.24 Whatever well meaning reforms were instituted were done so paternalistically and for Southern Democrats own interests. And when an alliance with Blacks no longer served the interests of the whites they were easily abandoned. When the Blacks agreement with the Southern Democrats unraveled Blacks were left economically naked except for the loin cloth of political rights. But this loin cloth was easily stripped from them, because lacking economic power, they were

unable to make other political allies, their economic position allowed them to be easily intimidated by White land owners, they had no way to lobby the government, no way to leave the South, few employment opportunities, and for many Blacks no education.25 The leaders of the Reconstruction failed to understand that without economic justice Blacks would be forced into a dependency on the White power structure to protect their rights and when these rights no longer served the interests of this power structure they were easily stripped away. Reconstruction Acts and Constitutional Amendments offered little protection to stop this stripping away of Black political rights. The Reconstruction leaders failed to understand the relationship between political rights and economic power, if

they had they might not have rejected measures that could have provided former slaves with the economic power to safeguard their political rights. Two possibilities presented themselves at the outset of the First Reconstruction. A Quaker and Radical Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania, Thaddeus Stevens, proposed that the North seize the land holdings of the South’s richest land owners as a war indemnity and redistribute the land giving each newly freed Negro adult male a mule and forty acres.26 Thaddeus Stevens a bitter foe of the South,27 explained that a free society had to be based on land redistribution: Southern Society has more the features of aristocracy then a democracy….. It is impossible that any practical equality of rights can exist where a few thousand men

monopolize the who landed property. How can Republican institutions, free schools, free churches, free social intercourse exist in a mingled community of nabobs and serfs, of owners of twenty-thousand-acre manors, with lordly palaces, and the occupants of narrow huts inhabited by low White trash? Stevens plan in the Republican Press though drew unfavorable responses. The plan was called brash and unfair. Only one newspaper endorsed it and that was the French paper La Temps which said, “There cannot be real emancipation for men who do no possess at least a small portion of soil.”28 When the bill was introduced in Congress it was resoundingly defeated by a majority of Republicans. Stevens was alone in understanding the tremendous institutional changes that would have to take

place to guarantee the emancipation of a people. If the former slave did not have his own land he would be turned into a serf in his own nation a stranger to the freedoms guaranteed to him and a slave all but in name. The other alternative the leaders of Reconstruction had was expanding the Freedmen’s Bureau from a temporary to a permanent institution that educated all former slaves and ensured that former slaves had a viable economic base that did not exploit them. Instead, the Freedmen’s Bureau lasted merely five years, and only five million dollars were appropriated to it. Its mission to educate and protect the Freedmen was meet in only a small way in this short amount of time and when the Freedmen’s Bureau shutdown it left the education of former slaves to local