With the return of the southern delegation to Congress in June 1868, Reconstruction was nominally completed. Although the term recon- struction is customarily used to describe the entire period from 1865 to 1877, the Reconstruction Acts themselves dealt only with the re- quirements for readmission and the procedure for forming and elect- ing new governments in the South. Since federal relations had been restored and the southern states were now governing themselves, the mandate of the acts, so the Republican majority in Congress posited, had essentially been fulfilled. But the outcome of Reconstruction would not really be decided until these newly established Republican administrations had not only demonstrated their ability to survive, but to govern effectively and bring about changes in southern life. In- deed, Reconstruction was not over. It had just begun.
This dilemma was to prove the major stumbling block in sustain- ing Reconstruction in the South and bringing it to a successful con- clusion. Most of the Republican Congressmen who had helped frame