Reconstruction era of the United States

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In the history of the United States, Reconstruction Era has two uses; the first covers the entire nation in the period 1865–1877 following the Civil War; the second one, used in this article, covers the transformation of the Southern United States from 1863 to 1877, with the reconstruction of state and society in the former Confederacy. Three amendments to the Constitution affected the entire nation. In the different states, Reconstruction began and ended at different times; federal Reconstruction policies were finally abandoned with the Compromise of 1877.[1]

Reconstruction policies were debated in the North when the war began, and commenced in earnest after the Emancipation Proclamation, issued on January 1, 1863. Reconstruction policies were implemented when a Confederate state came under the control of the Union Army. President Abraham Lincoln set up reconstructed governments in several southern states during the war, including Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana, and experimented with giving land to ex-slaves in South Carolina. Following Lincoln's assassination, president Andrew Johnson tried to follow Lincoln's lenient policies and appointed new governors in the summer of 1865. Johnson quickly declared that the war goals of national unity and the ending of slavery had been achieved, so that reconstruction was completed. Republicans in Congress refused to accept Johnson's lenient terms, rejected the new members of Congress selected by the South, and in 1865-66 broke with the president. A sweeping Republican victory in the 1866 Congressional elections in the North gave the Radical Republicans enough control of Congress that they over-rode Johnson's vetoes and began what is called "Radical reconstruction" in 1867.[2]

Congress removed the civilian governments in the South[3] in 1867 and put the former Confederacy under the rule of the U.S. Army. The army then conducted new elections in which the freed slaves could vote while those who held leading positions under the Confederacy were denied the vote and could not run for office.

In ten states,[4] coalitions of freedmen, recent arrivals from the North (Carpetbaggers), and white Southerners who supported Reconstruction (Scalawags) cooperated to form Republican state governments, which introduced various reconstruction programs, offered massive aid to railroads, built public schools, and raised taxes. Conservative opponents charged that Republican regimes were marred by widespread corruption. Violent opposition towards freedmen and whites who supported Reconstruction emerged in numerous localities under the name of the Ku Klux Klan, which led to federal intervention by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1871 that closed down the Klan. Conservative Democrats calling themselves "Redeemers" regained control state by state, sometimes using fraud and violence to control state elections. A deep national economic depression following the Panic of 1873 led to major Democratic gains in the North, the collapse of many railroad schemes in the South, and a growing sense of frustration in the North.

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