It is clear that all the lives that were lost in the American Civil War to insure a 'new birth of freedom' were in vain. By 1880, the South had defeated the weak Northern efforts in behalf of the freedmen, and had re-enslaved the Negro. 
         Assess the validity of this statement using the documents and your knowledge of U S History.


AMENDMENT XIII (1865.) Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.


AMENDMENT XIV (1868.) All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.



Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.



          It is a question of grave doubt whether the 15th Amendment was wise or expedient. The practical result has been that the wise provisions of the 14th Amendment have been modified by the Fifteenth Amendment. . . . If the principle of the 14th Amendment had remained in full force, Congress could have reduced the representation of any State, in the proportion which the number of the male inhabitants of such State, denied the right of suffrage, might bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age, in such State. This simple remedy, easily enforced by Congress, would have secured the right of all persons, without distinction of race or color, to vote at all elections. The reduction of the representation would have deterred every State from excluding the vote of any portion of the male population above twenty-one years of age. As the result of the Fifteenth Amendment, the political power of the States lately in rebellion has been increased. . . . Black legislatures abused their power, becoming instruments of carpetbag leaders and rings in robbing white property-holders. Only doctrinaires or the stupid could have expected that the whites would long submit. So soon as Federal bayonets were gone, fair means or foul were certain to remove the scepter from colored hands. Precisely this happened. Without the slightest formal change of constitution or of statute the Southern States one by one passed into the control of their white inhabitants.

John Sherman, Salmon Chase, and Benjamin Andrews, Why Reconstruction Failed
Great Epochs, Vol.9, Pg.191.



          In 1870 and 1871, by the so-called Force Bills, Federal judges were given cognizance of suits, privileges, or immunities under the Constitution. Fine and imprisonment were made the penalties for "conspiracy" against the United States or the execution of its laws, as by forcibly or through intimidation preventing men from voting. The army and navy were placed at the service of the President to enforce the act, and Federal judges might exclude suspected persons from sitting on juries.

Microsoft Encarta.



          This is an institution of chivalry, humanity, mercy, and patriotism; embodying in its genius and its principles all that is chivalric in conduct, noble in sentiment, generous in manhood, and patriotic in purpose; its peculiar objects being. . . . to protect the weak, the innocent, and the defenseless from the indignities, wrongs, and outrages of the lawless, the violent, and the brutal; to relieve the injured and oppressed; to succor the suffering and unfortunate, and especially the widows and orphans of Confederate soldiers. . . . to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and all laws passed in conformity thereto, and to protect the states and the people thereof from all invasion from any source whatever. . . . The officers of this Order shall consist of a Grand Wizard of the Empire and his ten Genii; a Grand Dragon of the Realm and his eight Hydras; a Grand Titan of the Dominion and his six Furies; a Grand Giant of the Province and his four Goblins; a Grand Cyclops of the Den and his two Night Hawks; a Grand Magi, a Grand Monk, a Grand Scribe, a Grand Exchequer, a Grand Turk, and a Grand Sentinel. . . . The body politic of this Order shall be known and designated as Ghouls.

Microsoft Encarta.


          Usually the mere existence of a "den" anywhere was sufficient to render docile every negro in the vicinity. If more was required, a half-dozen "ghouls" making their nocturnal rounds in their hideous masks and long white gowns, frightened all but the most hardy. Any who showed fight were whipt, maimed, or killed. . .

Microsoft Encarta.


          The sweeping revolution of the entire labor system of a large portion of our country and the advance of 4,000,000 people from a condition of servitude to that of citizenship, upon an equal footing with their former masters, could not occur without presenting problems of the gravest moment, to be dealt with by the emancipated race, by their former masters, and by the General Government, the author of the act of emancipation. That it was a wise, just, and providential act, fraught with good for all concerned, is not generally conceded throughout the country. That a moral obligation rests upon the National Government to employ its constitutional power and influence to establish the rights of the people it has emancipated, and to protect them in the enjoyment of those rights when they are infringed or assailed, is also generally admitted. . . . . I am sincerely anxious to use every legitimate influence in favor of honest and efficient local self-government. But at the basis of all prosperity, for that as well as for every other part of the country, lies the improvement of the intellectual and moral condition of the people. Universal suffrage should rest upon universal education. To this end, liberal and permanent provision should be made for the support of free schools by the State governments, and, if need be, supplemented by legitimate aid from national authority.

Rutherford B. Hayes, Inaugural Address, March 5, 1877.




          Lacking capital, and with little to offer but their labor, thousands of impoverished former slaves slipped into the status of sharecropper farmers, as did many landless whites. Luckless sharecroppers gradually sank into a morass of virtual peonage and remained there for generations. Formerly slaves to masters, countless blacks as well as poorer whites in effect became slaves to the soil and to their creditors. Yet the dethroned planter aristocracy resented even this pitiful concession to freedom. Sharecropping was the "wrong policy," said one planter. "It makes the laborer too independent; he becomes a partner, and has a right to be consulted.

Thomas A. Bailey, The American Pageant.


          A prominent Democratic politician, describing a reconstruction governor of his State, whom he had done his best to overthrow, said: "I regard him as a thoroughly honest man and opposed to corruption and extravagance in office. . . . but the want of sympathy between him and the white people of the State, and his failure to appreciate the relations and prejudices of the two races, made it next to impossible for him to succeed . . . . The good carpet-baggers and the bad alike somehow exerted an influence which had the effect of morbidly inflaming the negro's sense of independence and of engaging him in politics. The negro was too apt a pupil, not in the higher politics of principle, but in the politics of office and "swag." In 1872 the National Colored Republican Convention adopted a resolution "earnestly praying that the colored Republicans of States where no Federal positions were given to colored men might no longer be ignored, but be stimulated by some recognition of Federal patron-age." "The reformers complain of taxes being too high," said Beverly Nash in 1874, after he had become State Senator; "I tell you that they are not high enough. . . . . In their days of serfdom the negroes' besetting sin had been thievery. Now that the opportunities for this were multiplied, the fear of punishment gone, and many a carpet-bagger at hand to encourage it, the prevalence of public and private stealing was not strange . . . . There were said to be in South Carolina alone, in November, 1874, two hundred negro trial justices who could neither read nor write, also negro school commissioners equally ignorant, receiving a thousand a year each, while negro juries, deciding delicate points of legal evidence, settled questions involving lives and property.

Benjamin Andrews on the Evils of Reconstruction, Great Epochs, Vol.9, Pg.69.


          I heard about freedom in September and they were picking cotton and a white man rode up to master's house on a big, white horse and the houseboy told master a man wanted to see him and he hollered, "Light, stranger." It was a government man and he had the big book and a bunch of papers and said why hadn't master turned the niggers loose. Master said he was trying to get the crop out and he told master to have the slaves in. Uncle Steven blew the cow horn that they used to call to eat and all the niggers came running, because that horn meant, "Come to the big house, quick." The man read the paper telling us we were free, but master made us work several months after that. He said we would get 20 acres of land and a mule but we didn't get it. . . . Lots of niggers were killed after freedom, because the slaves in Harrison County were turned loose right at freedom and those in Rusk County weren't. But they heard about it and ran away to freedom in Harrison County and their owners had them bushwhacked, then shot down. You could see lots of niggers hanging from trees in Sabine bottom right after freedom, because they caught them swimming across Sabine River and shot them. There sure are going to be lots of souls crying against them in judgment!" 

George P. Rawick, ed., The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography, p. 78.





          Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States; and such citizens, of every race and color, without regard to any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted shall have the same right, in every state and territory in the United States, to make and enforce contracts; to sue; be parties, and give evidence; to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property; and to full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, and penalties, and to none other, any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom to the contrary notwithstanding. . . . And be it further enacted, that any person who, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, shall subject, or cause to be subjected, any inhabitant of any state or territory to the deprivation of any right secured or protected by this act, or to different punishment, pains, or penalties on account of such person having at any time been held in a condition of slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, or by reason of his color or race, than is prescribed for the punishment of white persons, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction, shall be punished by fine not exceeding $1,000 or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both, in the discretion of the court. . . .

The Civil Rights Act of 1866, Thomas A. Bailey, The American Pageant.



          The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was in a sense the last feeble gasp of the congressional radical Republicans. The act supposedly guaranteed equal accommodations in public places and prohibited racial discrimination in jury selection, but the law was born toothless and stayed that way for nearly a century. The Supreme Court pronounced much of the act unconstitutional in the Civil Rights Cases (1883). The Court declared that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibited only government violations of civil rights, not the denial of civil rights by individuals, unaided by government authority. Hayes clinched the bargain soon after his inauguration, when he appointed a former Confederate officer as postmaster general.

Thomas A. Bailey, The American Pageant.



          Among the first acts of the new Southern regimes sanctioned by Johnson was the passage of the iron-toothed Black Codes. These laws were designed to regulate the affairs of the emancipated blacks, much as the slave statutes had done in pre-Civil War days. Mississippi passed the first such law in November 1865, and other Southern states soon followed suit. The Black Codes varied in severity from state to state (Mississippi's was the harshest and Georgia's the most lenient), but they had much in common. The Black Codes aimed, first of all, to ensure a stable labor supply. The crushed Cotton Kingdom could not rise from its weeds until the fields were once again put under hoe and plow--and many whites feared that black field hands and plow drivers would not work unless forced to do so.

          Severe penalties were therefore imposed by the codes on blacks who "jumped" their labor contracts, which usually committed them to work for the same employer for one year, and generally at pittance wages. Violators could be made to forfeit back wages or could be forcibly dragged back to work by a paid "Negro-catcher." In Mississippi the captured freedmen could be fined and then hired out to pay their fines--an arrangement that closely resembled slavery itself. . . . The codes also sought to restore as nearly as possible the pre-emancipation system of race relations. Freedom was legally recognized, as were some other privileges, such as the right to marry. But all the codes forbade a black to serve on a jury; some even barred blacks from renting or leasing land. A black could be punished for "idleness" by being sentenced to work on a chain gang. Nowhere were blacks allowed to vote.

Ken Stampp, The Era of Reconstruction.



          Against a backdrop of vicious and bloody race riots that had erupted in several Southern cities, Congress passed the Military Reconstruction Act on March 2, 1867. Supplemented by later measures, this drastic legislation divided the South into five military districts, each commanded by a Union general and policed by blue-clad soldiers, about twenty thousand all told. The act also temporarily disfranchised tens of thousands of former Confederates. . . . Congress additionally laid down stringent conditions for the readmission of the seceded states. The wayward states were required to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment, giving the former slaves their rights as citizens. The bitterest pill of all to white Southerners was the stipulation that they guarantee in their state constitutions full suffrage for their former adult male slaves.

Thomas A. Bailey, The American Pageant.



          Congress, outraged by this night-riding lawlessness, passed the harsh Force Acts of 1870 and 1871. Federal troops were able to stamp out much of the "lash law," but by this time the "Invisible Empire" had already done its work of intimidation. Many of the outlawed groups continued their tactics in the guise of "dancing clubs," "missionary societies," and "rifle clubs," though the net effect of all the hooded terrorists has probably been exaggerated. Economic reprisals were often more effective, especially when causing blacks to lose their jobs. Attempts to empower the blacks politically failed miserably. The white South, for many decades, openly flouted the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Wholesale disfranchisement of the blacks, starting conspicuously about 1890, was achieved by intimidation, fraud, and trickery. Among various underhanded schemes were the literacy tests, unfairly administered by whites to the advantage of illiterate whites. In the eyes of white Southerners, the goal of white supremacy fully justified dishonorable devices.

Thomas A. Bailey, The American Pageant.





          They did not deem the southerners safe friends of the freed slaves. They had not noted how quiet, how unexcited, how faithful and steady at their accustomed tasks, how devoted in the service of their masters the great mass of the negro people had remained amidst the very storm and upheaval of war;. . . . it became obviously necessary that, for a time at least, Congress should take the negroes under the direct supervision and care of the government. On the 3d of March, 1865, therefore, while Mr. Lincoln still lived, an Act had been passed which created in the War Department a "Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands," whose powers were most elastic and paternal. It was in every way to succor the negroes: to supply their physical needs when necessary, to act as their representative and guardian in finding employment and making labor contracts, to settle labor disputes and act as the next friend of negro litigants in all trials and suits at law, to lease to them tracts of abandoned land temporarily in the hands of the government because of the removal or disappearance or technical outlawry of their white owners. . . .

Woodrow Wilson, History of the American People, Vol.5, Pg.18.



          FOURSCORE and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that the nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, Harvard Classics (1910), Vol.43, Pg.441.





         Let there be White Leagues formed in every town, village and hamlet of the South, and let us organize for the great struggle which seems inevitable. If the October elections which are to be held at the North are favorable to the radicals, the time will have arrived for us to prepare for the very worst. The radicalism of the republican party must be met by the radicalism of white men. We have no war to make against the United States Government, but against the republican party our hate must be unquenchable, our war interminable and merciless. Fast fleeting away is the day of wordy protests and idle appeals to the magnanimity of the republican party. By brute force they are endeavoring to force us into acquiescence to their hideous programme. We have submitted long enough to indignities, and it is time to meet brute-force with brute-force. Every Southern State should swarm with White Leagues, and we should stand ready to act the moment Grant signs the civil-rights bill. It will not do to wait till radicalism has fettered us to the car of social equality before we make an effort to resist it. The signing of the bill will be a declaration of war against the southern whites. It is our duty to ourselves, it is our duty to our children, it is our duty to the white race whose prowess subdued the wilderness of this continent, whose civilization filled it with cities and towns and villages, whose mind gave it power and grandeur, and whose labor imparted to it prosperity, and whose love made peace and happiness dwell within its homes, to take the gage of battle the moment it is thrown down. If the white democrats of the North are men, they will not stand idly by and see us borne down by northern radicals and half-barbarous negroes. But no matter what they may do, it is time for us to organize. We have been temporizing long enough. Let northern radicals understand that military supervision of southern elections and the civil-rights bill mean war; that war means bloodshed, and that we are terribly in earnest, and even they, fanatical as they are, may retrace their steps before it is too late.

Atlanta News, September 10, 1874.


DBQ Question written (and graciously donated) by:
Mr. Jim Tomlin
Corona del Mar High School
Newport Beach, CA  92660

created in:  December, 1999