Emancipation and Reconstruction

By Michael Perman | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER FOUR

Ending Reconstruction,
1874–1879

Collapse in the South

The reconstructed South had two political parties but no two-party system. This was the case because one of the existing parties refused to accord legitimacy to the other. The opponents of Reconstruction, that is, the Democrats, would not acknowledge that the Republican party had a right to participate in southern political life. First of all, it was the partisan instrument of a Reconstruction policy that had been framed and imposed by a northern Congress and, second, its support was based essentially on the votes of the former slaves.

This denial of legitimacy was even more serious because it ex- tended beyond the political party to encompass state government as well, since the Republicans controlled and ran it. This amounted to a renunciation of the authority of the state. In effect, the Republicans were viewed as an occupying force whose authority was rejected. Nevertheless, because they were a political party, not an army, the Republicans had to govern by consent. Thus, they had to obtain le- gitimacy and could only do so by breaking down disrespect and con-

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