American Civil War is said to have ruined one America and laid the foundation for another the building of which is not complete even now. After the Civil War, the country faced problems in the economy, politics, and social sphere but the changes which occurred during the period of Reconstruction alleviated these problems and influenced positively the overall situation in the country.
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To begin with, the Civil War entailed the crash of the economy and the depression which followed the Panic of 1873. President Grant and Congress were blamed for mishandling the economy and involving the country in such economic problems as deflation, declining market, and overproduction. In September 1873 Jay Cooke and Company announced its collapse which served as the beginning of the Panic of 1873 since namely this bank financed construction of the railroad in the post-war period. The depression which followed the Panic of 1873 lasted till the end of the decade and resulted in the failure of 10,000 businesses. What’s more, there arose a threat to the normal functioning of agriculture. The abolishment of slavery caused the reduction of the labor force in plantations and the former slaveholders had to hire people to work at plantations.
Furthermore, the biggest social problem the South faced after the war was the Ku-Klux-Klan which first started in the southern regions but later acquired the national scope. Since a number of black people were released from slavery, they had to enter the society which, however, strongly opposed it. The members of the Ku-Klux Klan fought for white supremacy intimidating, oppressing, and lynching African-Americans as well as Jews and members of minority groups.
Regarding the political problems in the South it was traced that the highest level of government experienced distrust and disagreement while barely surmountable bureaucratic problems brought much of its operations to a near halt (Shannon D. Smith, p. 6). Therefore, it can be stated that the postwar government was marked by its ineffectiveness which could not but influenced greatly the overall position of the Southern regions. Moreover, the existing constitution still did not give black people rights to participate in political activities which they tried to mend by penetrating into different governmental structures.
As far as the social changes in the period of Reconstruction are concerned, the Reconstruction marked the revolution for black people. They gained the right to control their schools and churches and an opportunity to improve their own community. The black people could now control their economic and family lives without any intervention of the former slave-holding system.
Discussing the economical changes it would be necessary to mention that a proper solution to the agricultural problem was found. There appeared a new method of land lease, namely sharecropping which allowed tenants to use land under the condition that they would share part of their crop. A change in the plantation system of agriculture could be observed which consisted in its replacement by tenant farming which involved “raising crops and livestock on rented land” (World Book, Inc, p. 132).
One of the most important political changes was that after the Civil War the black people were permitted to take part in political activities and, according to the 15th Amendment to the Constitution of the US, they were given political rights equal with white people: “State conventions and local political societies such as the Union League provided an opportunity for freedmen to articulate their vision of full participation in the political and economic life of the former slave states (Bruce A. Ragsdale, Joel D. Treese, p. 1). During the Reconstruction period, a certain amount of northerners moved to the South and were given the name carpetbaggers. They formed a coalition with scalawags, a group of white people who lived in the South and were supporters of Reconstruction, and the released slaves, belonging to the Republican Party. This coalition exercised control over the former Confederate states.
Thus, the economic, social, and political changes which took place in the South of America at the end of the nineteenth century, namely giving black and white people equal rights, the emergence of sharecropping and tenant farming as well as the coalition formed by carpetbaggers and scalawags alleviated the problems the South faced after the Civil War.
- Shannon D. Smith. Give Me Eighty Men: Women and the Myth of the Fetterman Fight. U of Nebraska Press, 2008
- Bruce A. Ragsdale, Joel D. Treese. Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989. DIANE Publishing, 1996
- World Book, Inc. The World Book Encyclopedia. World Book, Inc., 2002