A More Perfect Union: The Impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction on the Constitution

By Harold M. Hyman | Go to book overview

Chapter XXIII
Reconstruction: Its Hour Come Round At Last

P receding chapters have viewed post-Appomattox concerns rarely included in Civil War and Reconstruction analysis. But they deserve the attention. If from 1861 to 1865 intrastate matters seldom held center stage, after Appomattox they dominated horizons. States' efforts to license professionals, contain cholera, regulate railroad rates, suppress pornography, and control inflammable illuminants informed parallel national attempts, and set implicit--sometimes explicit--configurations for national Reconstruction as well. Responding to state policies about Negroes, congressmen used much the same symbols and instruments of government as for other admitted concerns. The result was that national Reconstruction evolved conformably to alternatives, dimensions, imperatives, and constraints present in seemingly disparate national enterprises.

Significant parallelism between postwar national and state efforts derived also from the common constitutional institutions, language, and spirit that inspired numerous improvement efforts. Since the federal system had worked well enough to survive the War, the assumption obtained that somewhere within its levels it could cope with any problem. But whether by state or nation, coping had to be done constitutionally. Constitutional permissiveness was never absolute. Federalism's survival required continued

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