Reconstruction, Political Developments in the South
Congressional Reconstruction, black suffrage, enforcement acts, Republican rule, black votes
With Congressional Reconstruction in place, the Southern states, supervised by federal troops, formed new state governments that were dominated by Republicans. By the end of March 1870 all of the former Confederate states had been readmitted to the Union. Black male suffrage was vital to the Congressional plan. By giving 700,000 former slaves the right to vote, Congressional Reconstruction created a new electorate in the South; blacks held voting majorities in five states.
Reconstruction-era voters provided support for a Southern Republican Party, a fragile coalition made up of carpetbaggers (Northerners who moved south after the war), scalawags (Southerners, usually former Whigs who joined the Republicans), and African Americans. Under Republican rule, Southern states built roads and bridges, promoted railroad development, funded state institutions, started state school systems, enlarged state government, and increased state budgets. Republican rule, however, was brief, less than five years in most states.
Southern Democrats, white landowners, and white voters generally opposed Republican rule. They tried to dismantle Republican power by terrorizing blacks to prevent them from voting. Without black votes, the Democrats would be able to defeat the Republican Party and reclaim their power. The best-known terrorist group was the Ku Klux Klan, formed in 1866 to suppress black suffrage and restore white supremacy. Klan members attacked Freedmen’s Bureau officers, white Republicans, and black voters. Republicans in Congress tried to combat terrorism with three “enforcement acts” of 1870 and 1871. The acts sought to protect voters, supervise elections, and punish those who impeded black suffrage. Federal efforts virtually suppressed the Ku Klux Klan, but violence and intimidation continued, and ex-Confederate hostility to emancipation seethed.
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