In what ways and to what extent did constitutional and social developments between 1860 and 1877 amount to a revolution?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When faced with essay questions of this sort, your answer should almost always be something like “to some extent.”  This is because these questions are typically meant to encourage you to see both sides of the issue.

On the one hand, you can say that the changes over this time period were truly revolutionary.  The most obvious example of this is the fact that slavery ended.  That is a very revolutionary change because it destroyed an entire economic and social system in addition to changing the Constitution.  You can also say that there was a constitutional revolution because the doctrine of states’ rights was essentially discredited and abandoned.

On the other hand, there were ways in which this was not truly revolutionary.  By 1877, Reconstruction was over.  There was no longer any real effort to bring about true social and legal equality between African Americans and white people.  In this way, the changes of this era did not constitute a social revolution.  The people who had been in power in the South remained in power and the people who had been poor (slaves and poor whites) remained poor.

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