Emancipation and Reconstruction

By Michael Perman | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION

The Dilemma
of Reconstruction

The refusal of northerners to continue their support of the belea- guered and collapsing Reconstruction governments was quite under- standable. After all, the amount of intervention necessary to sustain them did indeed appear boundless. This was a persistent feature of Reconstruction: nothing was ever enough. At the outset, the slaves had been emancipated and the rebellion subdued, but these consider- able achievements soon proved to be insufficient. Subsequently, the slaves were then enfranchised and the South reorganized politically, with the formation of a new party and the creation of new govern- ments. But even this was not enough, since these Reconstruction gov- ernments constantly called on the North for further aid and protec- tion.

Because it was always falling short, many have judged Recon- struction harshly, if simplistically, as a failure. Critics have argued that much more should have been done when Washington had the South, helpless and defeated, in its hands. Land should have been confiscated from the defeated Confederates and redistributed to the freedmen. The rebellious South should have been treated as a con-

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