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Reconstruction - Essay Example

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[Instructor Name] Reinterpretations of Reconstruction Introduction The aftermath of the American Civil War was a troubled time for the American South. The group of states formerly known as the Confederacy were teeming with tensions of an ethnic and parochial variety and reeling with the economic consequences of a disastrous and expensive war…
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Download file to see previous pages The above mentioned scenario, as well as the events that followed in the attempted reconstruction of the American South by the Republican Party, were catalogued by several historians, with each historian instilling their own perspective into their recording of events. For the purposes of this paper an elucidation of the views of the views of four historians and their texts will be provided. These include: Reconstruction by Thomas Wilson, The Negro in Reconstruction by Carter Woodson, The Ordeal of Reconstruction by Thomas A. Bailey, and Reconstruction: Unfinished Revolution by Mary Beth Norton. Overview The views expressed by the different authors are to an extent the products of their particular time and prevalent historical school of thought and as such are reflective of it in terms of the language used. Each text is also characterized by the amount of words dedicated to each issue depending on the particular perspective of each author. Wilson is generally extremely critical of the Northern carpetbaggers and derisory of the competence of the “negroes” while being wholly sympathetic to the plight of the Southern White. Woodson on the other hand, is focused primarily on the role of the “Negroe” and in attempting to absolve him of the corruption and mismanagement that plagued the era. Bailey highlights the incompetence and illiteracy of the “negroes” while painting a bleak picture of the government and policies of time, keeping in line with the other authors. Norton, is perhaps the only author to portray reconstruction and the Northern immigrants in a positive light, while being highly critical of the role of the Southern White gentry. Carpet Baggers Thomas Wilson in his piece Reconstruction places the blame for the failure of reconstruction solely on the carpetbaggers or opportunistic Northern immigrants and dedicates the majority of the piece to the exploitative activities of the above. Wilson states: “These men, mere “carpet baggers” for the most part, who brought nothing with them, and had nothing to bring but a change of clothing and their wits, became the new masters of the blacks.” Wilson’s implication here is that all Northern immigrants were “carpet baggers”, individuals who had little wealth to offer the South and instead came to exploit its resources. There is no mention of Northerners who may have possibly arrived to assist in the improvement of the conditions of African Americans. Another inference that can be drawn from the above statement is that Wilson had beliefs that the “carpet baggers” were perpetuating the system of slavery, albeit indirectly by manipulating the “blacks. Carter Woodson while taking a critical view of the role of the “carpet baggers” also accepts that some of them did have principled intentions: Referring to the “carpet baggers” he states: “They were in many respects selfish men, but not always utterly lacking in principle.” However, he does acknowledge that much of wholesale corruption during the era was a result of the greed of the “carpet baggers”: “Being adventurers and interested in their own affairs, the carpet baggers became unusually corrupt in certain states.” Thomas Bailey is for the most part silent on the role of “carpet baggers” but he does state: “Graft and theft ran wild, especially in states like Louisiana and South Carolina, ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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