The real work begins

The increasing severity of such laws and the steady encroachment of Congress upon the police powers of the individual states impeded the process of spiritual reconciliation with the north so necessary for the restoration of a common love of country. It also arrayed the mass of whites in the south against the Republican Party as the party of the Negro and only increased the solidarity of the Democratic Party in that area. As time passed, it was obvious that the problem of the south was not being solved by harsh laws and continued rancor against former Confederates. And in May 1872, Congress passed a general Amnesty Act restoring full political privileges to all but about five hundred Confederates who had been excluded from the right to hold office and from the franchise. Little by little, state after state elected members of the Democratic Party to office. By 1876, the Republicans remained in power in only three southern states. The election that year, one of the closest in American history and one of the most disorderly, made it plain that the south would know no peace until the troops were withdrawn. The next year, therefore, President Rutherford B. Hayes removed them, admitting the failure of the "radical" reconstruction policy, which had been adopted chiefly because the idealistic wing of the party wished to protect the Negro and because the materialistic wing hoped to hold the south for votes, offices, and power.

Northern rule was over in the south. But the south was now a region handicapped by the devastations of war, burdened by debts created by misgovernment, and demoralized by a decade of racial warfare. After twelve years-the years of "false" reconstruction from 1865 to 1877 - real efforts to rebuild the south began. To repair the havoc of war and the chaotic events that followed was to prove a task of heartbreaking difficulty. For the Civil War and the bitterness it engendered was one of the great tragedies of American history. It is only through an understanding of the war, its causes and aftermath, that real insight can be gained into some of the continuing problems of a major American region, the southern United States.