After the end of the Civil War at Appomattox, our nation’s leaders attempted to
reorganize state and local governments in the fallen Confederacy, reestablish normal
relations between the North and South, and to instill a sense of national loyalty once again.
What transpired was a unforgiving Congress whose reconstruction policies failed to aid
the South in economic, political, and social progress. Instead, spiteful legislation which wasdesigned to seek revenge on the Confederacy limited the immediate possibility of a once again prosperous Union.
The Radical Republicans serving in the United States Congress in the period after
the Civil War had little concern for the economic well-being of the South. The policies of these lawmakers resulted in the reduced size of plantations in the South. Some plantation owners sold off their surplus land, but most preferred to try a plan of sharecropping, with tenants who were unable to pay for the land in cash. Blacks never got “40 acres and a mule” talked about by Thaddeus Stevens and other radicals. The plantations owned by 70,000 “chief rebels” were never seized and redistributed.
Instead, sharecropping and tenant farming developed and, as a result, blacks were still tied to the land. In addition, the Southern economy had not escaped from control by Northern financiers, as evidenced by the high interest rates. Because of these rates, the small farmers became subject to the creditors and lacked economic freedom. Finally, many stubborn Southerners refused to accept tax programs which would provide funds for the social services needed to rebuild their economy after the war. As a result, too many white and black farmers still lived in poverty....