The Negro and the Nation: A History of American Slavery and Enfranchisement

By George S. Merriam | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXIII
RECONSTRUCTION: THE WORKING OUT

So the North turned cheerfully to its own affairs--and very engrossing affairs they were--and the South faced its new conditions. It was still struggling with the economic wreckage left by four years of battle, invasion and defeat. It had borne the loss of its separate nationality and the flag endeared by countless sacrifices. It had accepted the sudden emancipation of its servile class by the conqueror's hand. It had been encouraged by President Johnson to resume with little change its old ways of government. For two years it had gone along precariously with State organizations of the earlier pattern, subject to occasional interruption by military authority or officials of the Freedmen's Bureau. Then, in 1867, all State governments were set aside, and military rule pure and simple held the field,--in most States for about fifteen months; in Mississippi, Texas and Virginia, by their own choice, for as much longer. Though as it was generally administered the military government was just, as well as economical, yet its maintenance was a bitter ordeal for a people with the American political habit; a people, too, who had fought gallantly for four years; who had, upon accepting their defeat, been assured that the object of their conqueror was attained in restoring them to their old position, except for emancipation of the slaves; and who now for a year or two longer were held under martial law.

At last--for most of them in mid-summer of 1868--they were again restored to self-government of the American

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