The Reconstruction Era: Primary Documents on Events from 1865 To 1877

The Reconstruction Era: Primary Documents on Events from 1865 To 1877

The Reconstruction Era: Primary Documents on Events from 1865 To 1877

The Reconstruction Era: Primary Documents on Events from 1865 To 1877

Synopsis

As the sole purveyors of news and opinion, Reconstruction-era newspapers bent and spindled American public opinion with little regard for independent journalism and great regard for party politics. In other words, the newspapers of the Reconstruction era served political rather than social needs. The issues facing the nation were momentous, and opinions on how to deal with the problems were vigorously presented and defended. Using editorials, letters, essays, and news reports that appeared throughout the country's print media, this book reveals how editors, politicians, and other Americans used the press to influence opinion from 1865 to 1877.

Issues such as civil rights, constitutional amendments, a presidential impeachment, Indian wars, immigration, and political corruption dominated the newspapers and gave journalists opportunities to advance their agendas. Each of the 30 chapters of this book introduces an event or issue and includes news articles representing opposing sides of the issue as it affected Americans. Readers can use the introductory essays and primary source documents to understand how newspapers and magazines presented vital events and issues to Americans of the day. This invaluable reference source presents hard-to-find opinions in the words of those who wrote them.

Excerpt

As the Civil War neared its end, President Abraham Lincoln faced two major tasks: how to reconstruct the once rebellious Southern states so that they could once again be part of the Union and how to incorporate nearly five million ex-slaves into a democratic society. However, Lincoln was assassinated before he had an opportunity to develop a comprehensive plan for the South. That job would fall to his vice president, Andrew Johnson. Within six weeks of assuming office, Johnson developed what he would later call “My Policy,” a set of criteria each rebel state must meet to be restored to full membership in the Union. However, “My Policy” was much too lenient for Republicans in Congress, who insisted that rebels and former slaveholders not be returned to power and that blacks be protected from their former owners. During the next four years, Johnson and Congress batded it out in Washington as well as in the newspapers. The winner would be Congress.

When Ulysses S. Grant was elected president in 1868, the political wars were reduced to mere skirmishes. Not only was Grant more amenable to Republican wishes but Republicans themselves had moderated their own views on Reconstruction. By 1877, with President Rutherford B. Hayes in office, Republicans abandoned Reconstruction all together. The South returned to the control of whites, and blacks were relegated to third-class citizenship.

As the sole purveyors of news and opinion, the U.S. newspapers bent and spindled U.S. public opinion with little regard for independent journalism . . .

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