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1877: The problems facing America - Essay Example

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When Rutherford B. Hayes was elected president of the United States in 1877, America was just coming out of one of the most turbulent periods ever to face any country. The US had been devastated by the years of civil war and the lingering economic depression…
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1877: The problems facing America
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Download file to see previous pages When Rutherford B. Hayes was elected president of the United States in 1877, America was just coming out of one of the most turbulent periods ever to face any country. The US had been devastated by the years of civil war and the lingering economic depression.Mistrust in an ineffectual government had left the public weary of corruption and factions in the South remained in an antebellum attitude. The progress that blacks had made with the constitutional amendments of the previous 15 years had been nullified as southern states refused to enforce the freedoms granted to the newly freed slaves. As reconstruction ended and America moved forward, it was faced with the problems of restoring the Presidency, enforcing the constitution, and confronting the lingering economic depression.People's faith in government and the presidency had been shattered in the years after the civil war. The Union's victory had been shaken by the assassination of President Lincoln. The executive branch under President Johnson was failing to reach any of the goals of a reconstructed south and the freed people of the south had failed to reach either equal citizenship or economic independence. Johnson vetoed the Reconstruction acts, removed cabinet members, hindered the work of the Freedman's bureau, and limited the powers of the military commanders in the South. Radical Republicans in the congress rejected Johnson's position and set about enacting legislation curtailing presidential powers. Johnson continued to confront the congressional mood by attempting to remove the reconstructionist Stanton from the position of Secretary of War. The ensuing conflict resulted in impeachment hearings against Johnson and left the office of the presidency weakened.
With the country rebelling against the policies of Johnson, they ushered in the era of US Grant, a civil war hero. While people admired the man, as an official he was ineffective and suspect. Scandal and misuse of presidential powers rocked his administration. Most of the scandals involved financial corruption such as the Whiskey Ring affair, which cost the public millions of dollars in tax revenues (Henretta, Brody, and Dumenil, 468). With the public tiring of an ineffective and limited presidency, they elected Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876. Hayes, seen as an honest politician, accepted the presidency under the cloud of the compromise of 1877. The office of the presidency had been weakened and left as an office where the best hope was honest capitulation.
The Hayes election had presented the country with another looming problem. The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments that had granted the freedmen their rights as citizens and right to vote had been left meaningless in the South. In his inaugural speech Hayes said, "The permanent pacification of the country upon such principles and by such measures as will secure the complete protection of all its citizens in the free enjoyment of all their constitutional rights is now the one subject in our public affairs which all thoughtful and patriotic citizens regard as of supreme importance" (Hayes). These amendments to the constitution were the centerpiece of the goals of the civil war, yet were languishing in an environment of racism and segregation in the south. The Compromise of 1877 had put an end to any meaningful method of bringing about change in the conditions for blacks. Constitutional guarantees were little more than ideals that would not be brought to any real fruition for another 80 years (Peskin, 63). The southern states were allowed to self govern without the oversight of the union and nullified the amendments and the will of the republican union.
While confronting a weakened presidency faced with the task of enforcing the constitution, the country was also in the midst on an economic depression. The collapse of the Northern Pacific Railroad, and chief investor Jay Cooke, had triggered a severe depression in 1873 (Henretta, Brody, ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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