POWER AND POLICY
PUBLIC POLICY in postwar Georgia, like light shining out of the past, was refracted through the prism of 1865. Rays veered off in new directions. Three changes proved central features of the postwar southern experience. The war brought immense poverty, emancipation ended slavery, and federal power directed still further change. As before the war, Georgia resembled Alabama more than it did New York. Even through the trauma of war and Reconstruction, however, North and South continued to share common patterns in many matters of public policy.1
Whitelaw Reid, a northern journalist writing from Savannah in the summer of 1865, observed that life in Georgia's largest city had changed little since before Sherman arrived. "Save that the schools were filled with negroes;" he wrote, "and the rebel newspapers had been succeeded by loyal ones, and guards in blue, instead of gray, stood here and there, it was the rebel Savannah unchanged."2 Like Reid, black Georgians had ample reason to feel that too little had changed. In churches and schools and in politics, they worked to create a broader definition of black freedom.
White Georgians, for their part, felt that too much had changed already, and they directed their best efforts toward containing further change. No rebel would have mistaken the Savannah of Reid's description as anything but a world turned upside down -- the South no longer Confederate, the Union salvaged, slavery abolished. The War for Southern Independence had failed, and southern life had begun its transformation from prewar patterns. No one yet knew how much change the act of emancipation, in itself, might effect, or how much more the Union, in its triumph, might demand. On the other hand, no one yet knew how resourceful the white South, even in defeat, would prove in resistance.
Beginning with emancipation, the federal government launched a new career of shaping behavior previously left within the jurisdiction of state governments and private individuals. Policy mandates from the national government began by 1865 to channel social welfare and social control in Georgia in new directions. The most consequential shift in federal policy occurred when President
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Publication information: Book title: From Slave South to New South:Public Policy in Nineteenth-Century Georgia. Contributors: Peter Wallenstein - Author. Publisher: University of North Carolina Press. Place of publication: Chapel Hill, NC. Publication year: 1987. Page number: 131.
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