Was Reconstruction beneficial to the United States?

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larrygates's profile pic

larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Actually, reconstruction was a total failure, and was not good for the country. The South was defeated and embittered following the loss of the war, and Radical Republicans in Congress were determined to re-create the South in the image of the North. There was no reconciliation, nor was any attempted. Senator Thaddeus Stevens said that the Southern states had reverted to the status of "conquered provinces." Senator Charles Sumner said that the Southern states had committed political suicide and were now no more than unorganized territories. The Joint Committee on Reconstruction took the position that the South had forfeited "all civil and political rights under the Constitution."

A feeble attempt was made to rehabilitate former slaves, but no serious attempt was made at enforcement. The legacy of Reconstruction was failure to provide for the rights of freed Black Americans, an embittered South which retained that hostility well into the next century, and ultimately an abandonment of Reconstruction (with the Compromise of 1877) for purely political reasons.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In economic and political terms, Reconstruction was beneficial in the short term.  Morally, Reconstruction was only beneficial in the long term.

In the short term, Reconstruction was good for the US as a whole because it allowed the North and South to be reconciled.  Tying the country back together again was good for the economy (makes for a bigger market) and good for politics (a unified country is stronger than a divided one).

However, Reconstruction was a moral failure because it did not do much of anything to help the freed slaves.  The 14th and 15th Amendments, however, did end up helping the descendants of those slaves.  Unfortunately, this did not start to happen until after WWII.

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