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Members of the former antebellum gentry in the South hoped following the end of the Civil War to restore something of the old way of life for the South. They prided themselves in preserving the old way of life which was in actuality more legend than fact in the South. For this reason, they said they hoped to "redeem" the South, basically meaning save it from domination by Northern interests. They tended to dominate Southern politics for many years and were almost exclusively Democrats, since the Radicals in Congress had all been Republicans. They repudiated much of the debt which the South had accrued, and instituted a series of public works performed by "chain gangs,"comprised of prisoners, mostly black, who were forced to work on roads and other public facilities as part of thier prison sentence. They were also largely responsible for enactment of "Jim Crow laws" and other legislative acts entitled to not only disenfranchise Blacks but also deny them civil liberties as much as possible. Although they called themselves "redeemers," there were those who opposed them and called them "Bourbons," after the famous French royal family. The term was a reference to Napoleon Bonaparte's comment that the Bourbons had neither learned nor forgotten anything from the French Revolution. The implication was that the "redeemers had neither learned nor forgotten anything from the Civil War.
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