An American Crisis: Congress and Reconstruction, 1865-1867

An American Crisis: Congress and Reconstruction, 1865-1867

An American Crisis: Congress and Reconstruction, 1865-1867

An American Crisis: Congress and Reconstruction, 1865-1867

Excerpt

It may seem presumptuous in a foreigner to enter the American family quarrel over Reconstruction; my excuse for doing so is that the problem transcends its domestic context. The present status of the United States in the world makes their history the concern of all peoples, and the contemporary preoccupation with racial questions makes every attempt to answer them of general significance. Nor is the problem of Reconstruction that of the negro alone, for it raises crucial questions about American institutions, about American political philosophy, and about assumptions which are not confined to Americans. It is the behaviour of American politicians, and the American political system in a time of crisis, that I have sought to study in this book. Because I have tried to see the problems mainly through Northern eyes I shall be accused of taking sides against the South, for it is a tragedy of modern American historical writing that one cannot discuss this central episode in American history without appearing to be involved in sectional bitterness. Though I have tried to suggest that the authors of congressional Reconstruction were human beings -- and that a few of them were human beings with exceptional qualities -- I do not imply that Southerners had no case against the North. I do, however, believe that this 'case' has been poorly presented when Southern polemics stop with the statements that Thaddeus Stevens was wicked, that Charles Sumner was fanatical, and that carpetbag rule saw the 'black out of honest government'. The true fact about congressional Reconstruction was that it became law by a succession of two-thirds votes in both Houses of Congress, and that in mid-passage the Republicans won a resounding electoral victory. This kind of sustained solidarity is exceptional in American political history, and one must infer that there were powerful forces at work in the Northern society which produced this measure of support for an extremist . . .

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.