THE NEW NATION
FREDERIC L. PAXSON
PROFESSOR OF HISTORY UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO
The Riverside Press Cambridge
COPYRIGHT, 1915, BY FREDERIC L. PAXSON
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The Riverside Press
A new nation has appeared within the United States since the Civil War, but it has been only accidentally connected with that catastrophe. The Constitution emerged from the confusion of strife and reconstruction substantially unchanged, but the economic development of the United States in the sixties and seventies gave birth to a society that was, by 1885, already national in its activities and necessities. In many ways the history of the United States since the Civil War has to do with the struggle between this national fact and the old legal system that was based upon state autonomy and federalism; and the future depends upon the discovery of a means to readjust the mechanics of government, as well as its content, to the needs of life. This book attempts to narrate the facts of the last half-century and to show them in their relations to the larger truths of national development.
FREDERIC L. PAXSON.
I. THE CIVIL WAR 1
II. THE WEST AND THE GREENBACKS 20
III. THE RESTORATION OF HOME RULE IN THE SOUTH 39
IV. THE PANIC OF 1873 59
V. THE HAYES ADMINISTRATION 75
VI. BUSINESS AND POLITICS 92
VII. THE NEW ISSUES 108
VIII. GROVER CLEVELAND 126
IX. THE LAST OF THE FRONTIER 142
X. NATIONAL BUSINESS 162
XI. THE FARMERS' CAUSE 177
XII. THE NEW SOUTH 192
XIII. POPULISM 208
XIV. FREE SILVER 225
XV. THE "COUNTER-REFORMATION" 244
XVI. THE SPANISH WAR 258
XVII. THEODORE ROOSEVELT 276
XVIII. BIG BUSINESS 293
XIX. THE "MUCK-RAKERS" 309
XX. NEW NATIONALISM 324
MAPS AND CHARTS
THE RAILWAYS OF THE "OLD NORTHWEST" 13
THE WESTERN RAILWAY LAND GRANTS, 1850-1871 23
THE SOLID SOUTH, 1880-1912 53
THE POLITICAL SITUATION AT WASHINGTON, 1869-1917 76, 77
POPULATION AND IMMIGRATION, 1850-1910 120
THE WESTERN RAILROADS AND THE CONTINENTAL FRONTIER, 1870-1890 146, 147
THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN, 1789-1904 153
THE CONGRESSIONAL ELECTION OF 1890 between 186 and 187
THE FLOOD OF SILVER, 1861-1911 227
ALASKA, THE PHILIPPINES, AND THE SEAT OF THE SPANISH WAR 259
NORTH AMERICA IN 1915 between 340 and 341
THE NEW NATION
THE CIVIL WAR
The military successes of the United States in its Civil War maintained the Union, but entailed readjustments in politics, finance, and business that shifted the direction of public affairs for many years. In the eyes of contemporaries these changes were obscured by the vivid scenes of the battlefield, whose intense impressions were not forgotten for a generation. It seemed as though the war were everything, as though the Republican party had preserved the nation, as though the nation itself had arisen with new plumage from the stress and struggle of its crisis. The realities of history, however, which are ever different from the facts seen by the participant, are in this period further from the tradition of the survivor than in any other stage of the development of the United States. As the Civil War is viewed from the years that followed it, the actualities that must be faced are the facts that the dominant party saved neither the nation nor itself except by changing its identity; that economic and industrial progress continued through the war with unabated speed, and that out of the needs of a new economic life arose the new nation.
The Republican party, whose older spokesmen had been trained as Whigs or Democrats, had by 1861 seasoned its younger leaders in two national campaigns. It had lost the first flush of the new enthusiasm which gave it birth as a party opposed to the extension of slavery. The signs of the times had been so clear between 1856 and 1860 that many politicians had turned their coats less from a moral principle than from a desire to win. When Lincoln took up the organization of his Administration, these clamored for their rewards. There was nothing in the political ethics of the sixties that discountenanced the use of the spoils of office, and Lincoln himself, though he resented the drain of office-seeking upon his time, appears not to have seen that the spoils system was at variance with the fundamentals of good government.
It was a Republican partisan administration that bore the first brunt of the Civil War, but the struggle was still young when Lincoln realized that the Union could not stand on the legs of any single party. To develop a general Union sentiment became an early aim of his policy and is a key to his period. He was forced to consider and reconcile the claims of all shades of Republican opinion, from that of the most violent abolitionist to that of the mere unionist. In the Democracy, opinion ranged from that of the strong war Democrat to that of the Copperhead whose real sympathies were with the Confederacy.
To conciliate a working majority of the voters of the Union States, a majority which must embrace many Union Democrats, Lincoln steadily loosened the partisan bonds. The congressional elections of 1862 showed that he was still far from success. His overtures to the Democrats of the border States fell into line with his general scheme. His tolerance of McClellan and his support of Stanton, both of whom by sympathy and training were Democrats, reveal the comprehensive power of his endurance. As the election of 1864 approached to test the success of his generalship, he had to fight not only for a majority in the general canvass but for the nomination by his own party.
There were many men in 1864 who believed that the war was a mistake and that Lincoln was a failure. The peace Democrats denounced him as a military dictator; to the radical Republicans he was spineless and irresolute. Within his own Cabinet there was dissension that would have unnerved a less steady man. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury, wanted to be President, and had allowed his friends to intrigue in his behalf, yet had not withdrawn from the counsels of his rival. At various times he had threatened to resign, but Lincoln had shut his eyes to this infidelity and had coaxed him back. Not until after the President had been renominated did he accept the resignation of Chase, and even then he was willing to make the latter Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Chase, in the Cabinet and in touch with dissatisfied Republicans outside, was a menace to impartial administration. Less distressing, but noisier than he, was John C. Fremont, the first nominee of the party, who had sulked in the midst of admiring friends since Lincoln had removed him from important military service in 1861. About him the extreme abolitionists were gathered, and in his favor there was held a convention in May, 1864. But this dissenting movement collapsed upon itself before the elections in November.
The Republicans went into convention at Baltimore, on June 7, 1864. The candidacy of Chase had faded, that of Fremont was already unimportant, and the renomination of Lincoln was assured. But the party carefully concealed its name and, catering to loyalists of whatever brand, it called itself "Union," and invited to its support all men to whom the successful prosecution of the war was the first great duty. It was a Union party in fact as well as name. Delegations of Democrats came to it from the border States, and from one of these the convention picked a loyal Democrat for the Vice-Presidency. With Lincoln and Andrew Johnson on its ticket, with a platform silent upon the protective tariff, and with an organization so imperfect that no roll of delegates could be made until the convention had been called to order, the Administration party of 1864 was far from being the same organization that had, in 1856, voiced its protest against the Kansas-Nebraska Bill.
The excesses of the Democrats aided Lincoln almost as much as the efforts of the party which nominated him. A convention at Chicago, in August, presided over by Governor Seymour, of New York, and under the dominance of Clement L. Vallandigham, did not need to denounce the war as a failure in order to disappoint the Union Democrats. Not even the nomination of McClellan, nor his repudiation of the platform, could undo the result of such leadership. It was far from certain which ticket would receive the greater vote in November, but it was clear that union against disunion was the issue, and that men would vote according to their hopes and fears. The former were in the ascendant when the polls were opened, for Sherman had gained a decisive victory in his occupation of Atlanta, while Farragut had gained another at Mobile Bay. On the strength of these successes the Union ticket carried every State but Delaware, Kentucky, and New Jersey.
Chase, who left the Treasury during the presidential campaign, had by that time finished the work which carried the financial burdens of the Civil War and provided party texts for another generation. He had come to his task without special fitness, but had speedily mastered the essentials of war finance. In his reports he outlined the policy which Congress followed, more or less closely. Taxes ought to be increased, he urged, to meet all the costs of civil administration, interest on the debt, and sinking fund for the same. These were current burdens which the country ought not to try to escape. But the extra cost of the war, which was to be regarded as a permanent investment by the Union for its own defense, might fairly be made a charge upon posterity. To meet these he urged the creation of a sufficient bonded debt.
The Thirty-seventh Congress (1861-63) had been more ready to borrow than to tax. In all its experience until 1861 the United States had met no crisis in which large revenues had been required. In the thirty preceding years its total annual receipts had ranged from $20,000,000 to $81,000,000, while in the fiscal year in which the war began the total had reached $83,000,000, of which $41,000,000 were loans rather than revenue. Since the panic of 1857 the Treasury had faced a deficit at the end of each year, and had been compelled not only to spend its accumulated surplus on current needs, but to borrow heavily. The tariff duties, collected at the custom-houses, were, as they always had been, the mainstay of the revenue. But these had not met the needs of the three lean years before the war.
Had there been no war, the disordered finances of the United States might, in 1861, have called for corrective measures and new taxes, and these could not have become effective before 1862 or 1863. As it was, loans were resorted to for first-aid. In 1862 they alone were more than six times as great as the total receipts of 1861; in 1865 they were nearly three times as great as in 1862. Taxes were authorized more reluctantly than loans, they became profitable more slowly, and did not, until the last year of war, reveal the fiscal capacities of the United States.
The favorite national tax of the United States had always been the tariff. Supplemented by miscellaneous items which included no internal revenue after 1849, and no direct tax after 1839, it carried most of the financial burdens. Whether parties preferred it high or low, or levied it for protection or for revenue, they had continued to cherish it as a fiscal device, and had acquired no experience with alternate sources of supply. Like the army of the United States, which in time of war had to break in its volunteer levies before it could win victories, the Treasury and Congress had to learn how to tax before they could bring the taxable resources of the United States to supplement the loans.
The tariff was revised and increased several times between 1861 and 1865, and yielded its greatest return, $102,000,000, in 1864. The result was due to both the swelling volume of imports and the higher rates. Like all panics, that of 1857 had lessened the buying capacity of the American people. In hard times luxuries were sacrificed and treasury receipts were thereby greatly curtailed. A return to normal conditions of business would have been visible by 1861 had not war obscured it. Steadily through the war a prosperous North and West bought more foreign goods regardless of the price.
The rate of tariff was based upon the probable revenue, the protective principle, and the tax burdens already imposed upon American manufacturers. Not until 1863 were the internal or direct taxes noticeable, but in 1864 these passed the tariff as a source of revenue, with a total of $116,000,000. In 1866 this total was swollen to $211,000,000. Like the tariff, the income, excise, and direct taxes were often revised and raised, and many of the tariff increases were dependent upon them. When the American manufacturer, who already declared that he could stay in business only because the tariff protected him from European competition, found himself burdened with a tax on his income and with others upon his commercial transactions and his output, he complained bitterly of the disadvantage at which he was placed. To equalize his burdens, the import rates were repeatedly raised against the foreigner. By the end of the war, the tariff exceeded anything known in American experience, and was fixed less with the intention of raising revenue than of enabling the American producer to pay his internal tax. Less than $85,000,000 were collected from the customs in 1865; while $211,000,000 came from internal sources.
By taxing and borrowing the United States accumulated $88,000,000 in 1861, $589,000,000 in 1862, $888,000,000 in 1863, $1,408,000,000 in 1864, and $1,826,000,000 in 1865. The Treasury, unimportant in the world's affairs before 1861, suddenly became one of the greatest dealers in credit. Its debt of $2,808,000,000, outstanding in October, 1865, affected the interests and solidity of international finance, and indicated, as well, resources of which even boastful Americans had been unaware in 1861. One item in the debt, however, was a menace to the security of the whole, which was but little stronger than its weakest part.
The physical currency in which the debt was to be created and the expenses paid was as difficult to find in 1861 as the wealth which it measured. After Jackson destroyed the second Bank of the United States there had been no national currency but coin, and too little of that. Gold and silver had been coined at the mint, and the former had given the standard to the dollar. In intrinsic worth the gold dollar, as defined in 1834 at the ratio of sixteen to one, was slightly inferior to its silver associate, and by the law of human nature, which induces men to hold the better and pass the cheaper money, the value of the gold coin had become the measure of exchange.
The coined money did not circulate generally. It was devoted to a part of the business of government, and to the needs of the banks which provided the actual circulating medium. Scattered over all the States, hundreds of state and private banks issued their own notes to serve as money. At best, and in theory, these were exchangeable for gold at par; at worst, they were a total loss; yet as they were, variant and depreciated since the panic of 1857, they were the money of the people when the Civil War began. Before the end of 1861 the banks gave up the pretense of redeeming their notes in coin. The United States Treasury suspended the payment of specie early in 1862, and thereafter for seventeen years the paper money in circulation depended for its value on the hope that it would some day be redeemed.
The needs of the Treasury, in the crisis of suspension, induced Congress to authorize the emission of $150,000,000 of legal-tender paper money. These notes, soon known as the "greenbacks," became the measure of the difference between standard money and coin. Issued at par, they sank in value and fluctuated until in the darkest days of 1864 a dollar in gold could be exchanged for $2.85 in greenbacks. Yet they were called dollars, and the creditor was forced to accept them in payment of his debts. They were themselves a forced loan, borrowed by compulsion from the people, and constituting $433,000,000 in the total debts of the United States in 1865.
The greenback element in the national debt threatened the integrity of the whole. Should redemption take place at par, and at once, the credit of the United States could not fail to be strengthened. But should the greenbacks be allowed to remain below par, should more of them be issued, or should the United States avail itself of its technical privilege to pay off part of the bonded debt in "lawful money" manufactured by the printing-press, the weakest item in the total might easily depress the whole.
The future of American politics after 1865 was largely determined by the methods through which the revenue had been increased and by the fate of the greenbacks, but more important for the immediate future than either of these was the great fact that in five years the United States had been able to incur its net debt of $2,808,000,000, and had raised in addition more than $700,000,000 through taxation. It was a prosperous Union that emerged from the Civil War, and every region but the South was strong in its conscious wealth.
The whole of the United States had shared in the unusual growth in the period following the Mexican War, in which the new railroads were tying the Mississippi Valley to the seaboard. The census of 1860 reported an increase of 36 per cent in total population in ten years, somewhat unevenly divided, since the Confederate area had increased but 25 per cent, as compared with 39 per cent in the North and West, yet large enough everywhere to keep up the traditions of a growing population. The growth continued in the next decade, despite the Civil War. It is not to be expected that it should have touched the record of the fifties, for 2,500,000 men were drawn from production for at least three years—the three years in which most of them would have grown to manhood and married, had there been no war. The South, desolated by war, and with nearly every able-bodied white man in the ranks, stood still, with under 9 per cent increase. But the whole country grew in population from 31,443,321 to 38,558,371 (22 per cent), while the North and West, in spite of war, grew 27 per cent,—more than the South had done in its most brilliant decade.
How far the North and West would have gone had they not been hampered by the depression after 1857 cannot be stated. These regions had suffered most from the panic, since in them railroads and banks, factories and cities, and all the agents of a complex industrial organization had been most active. The industrial disturbance had disarranged for the time the elaborate Northern system. The simpler South, with its staple crops, its rural population, and its few railways, had suffered less. Southerners before the war had seen in their immunity from the effects of panic a proof of their superiority over other social orders; they had misread the times and prophesied the disintegration of the industrial organization of the North.
The South seceded before the rest of the United States emerged from the panic period. In the next four years the treasury receipts show the resources of the loyal States. Industry, recovered from its depression, went ahead unnoticed in the noise of war, yet little impeded by the fact of war.
Communication by rail brought the most significant of the single changes into the Northern States. Before the panic of 1857 the trunk-line railways had completed their net of tracks between the Mississippi and tidewater. Nearly ten thousand miles had been built in the Old Northwest alone in the ten preceding years. But the effect of this on business, certain to come in any event, was not seen until secession closed the Mississippi to the agricultural exports of the Northwest. For a part of 1861 and 1862 traffic piled up along the young railroads extending from St. Louis and Chicago to Buffalo, Pittsburg, New York, and Philadelphia. But before 1863 these lines, notably the New York Central, the Erie, and the Pennsylvania, had adapted themselves to the trade which the South had thrust upon them; and never since secession has New Orleans regained her place as the great outlet of the Mississippi Valley.
The fundamental change in the direction of its trade added to the prosperity of the North. In the additions to the transportation system, made to accommodate the new business, new railroads were less prominent than second tracks, bridges, tunnels, and terminal facilities. The experimental years of railroading had passed before most of the lines learned the importance of city terminals. The growth of the cities and the rising price of land made the attainment of these more difficult than they need have been, while city governments and their officials learned that illicit profits could be made out of the necessities of the railroads. The great lines, active in the development of their plants, and consolidating during the sixties to get the benefits of unified management, added to the bustle in the cities in the North.
The United States was an agricultural country until the beginning of manufacturing and the revolution in communication made it profitable to concentrate people and capital in the cities. Between 1850 and 1880 the number of cities with a population of 50,000 more than doubled. The actual construction of the houses, the water and lighting systems, and the sewers for these communities gave employment to labor. As cities grew, their more generous distances brought in the street-car companies, whose occupation of the public streets added to the temptations and opportunities of the officials of government. The swelling manufactures increased the city groups and gave them work.
The country life itself began to change. The typical farming families, developed by pioneer conditions, had remained the social unit for several generations, but these felt the lure of the cities which drew their boys and girls into the factories. Domestic manufactures could not compete in quality, appearance, or price with the output of the new factories. The farmer began to give up his slaughtering and butter-making, as he had already abandoned his spinning and weaving, and devoted himself more exclusively to raising crops. Here, too, the mechanical improvements touched his life. Agricultural machinery was coming into general use, while the new railroads carried off his produce to the great markets which the rising cities created.
The number of employees of American factories increased more than half between 1860 and 1870, while the capital invested and the goods turned out were more than doubled. The United States was for the first time looking to a day when all the ordinary necessities of life could be made within its limits. At Chicago, St. Louis, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and a host of cities in the interior, men were not disturbed by the war in their attempt to exploit the abundant resources of the continent. The manufacture of food began to shift from the household to the city factory, to the advantage of the cities lying near the great fresh areas of farm lands. The flour mills of the Northwest, the meat-packing establishments at Chicago and elsewhere, the distilleries of central Illinois, utilized the agricultural staples and transformed them for export. The presence of factories forced upon the city governments, East and West, already embarrassed by the pains of rapid growth, the problems of police power and good government. Charters written for semi-rural villages were inadequate when the villages became cities.
Clothing, no less than food, passed into the factory, thanks to Elias Howe and his sewing-machine and the shoe machinery of McKay. Before the war the influences of this change were visible in the increasing demand for cotton. Now came the great growth of the textile regions of the East, around Fall River and Philadelphia, and of the shoe factories in the Lynn district.
The use and manufacture of machines gave new stimulus to those regions where coal and iron, placed conveniently with reference to transportation, had fixed the location of smelters and rolling-mills. In the middle of the sixties Henry Bessemer's commercial process for the manufacture of steel marks the beginning of a revolution in the construction of railroads and bridges, as well as in public and private architecture. Pittsburg became the heart of the steel industry, and the young men who controlled it fixed their hands upon the commercial future of the United States. The newest of industries, the trade in petroleum and its oils, reached fifteen millions in Pittsburg alone in 1864.
The trunk-line railways with their spurs and branches adjusted themselves early in the war to the new direction of business currents. They then began to carry the new inhabitants into the cities, the new manufactures to their markets, and to press upon iron, coal, and timber for their own supplies. Men of business laid the foundations of huge fortunes in supplying the new and growing demands. The stock company, with negotiable shares and bonds, made it possible for the small investor to share in the larger commercial profits and losses.
The growth and elaboration of companies and commerce were projected upon a legal system that was most accustomed to small enterprises and local trade. Not only had the corporations to establish customs and precedents among themselves, but courts, legislatures, and city councils had to face the need for an amplification of American law. The speed with which the new life swept upon the country, the inexperience of both business men and jurists, the public ignorance of the extent to which the revolution was to go, and the cross-purposes inevitable when States tried to regulate the affairs of corporations larger than themselves, make it unnecessary to search further for the key to the confusing half-century that followed the Civil War.
The rapid changes in manufacturing, transportation, urban life, and business law that came with the prosperity of the early sixties gave to these years an appearance of materialism that has misled many observers. None of the developments received full contemporary notice, for war filled the front pages of the newspapers. The men who directed them were not under scrutiny, and could hardly fail to bring into business and speculation that main canon of war time that the end is everything and that it justifies the means. But though war was not the sole American occupation between 1861 and 1865, and though a new industrial revolution was begun, material things often gave way in the American mind to altruistic concepts and the service of the ideal.
Congress endowed the agricultural colleges in the early years of the war, and the state universities, though thinned by the enlistment of their boys, established themselves. The creation of new universities, the endowment of older foundations, and the beginning of an education that should fit not only for law, medicine, and theology, but for business, agriculture, engineering, and teaching, all bear testimony to the real interests of American democracy. The ideal was as yet far removed from the fact, and the intellectual leaders of the United States were yet to pass through a period of black pessimism, but the people were still firm in their faith that education is the mainstay of popular government, and gave their full devotion to both.
The four years of the Civil War carried the United States over a period of social and economic transition and left it well started on the new course. They enlarged and expanded the activities of government, hastening that day when there should exist a public conviction that government is a matter of technical expertness and must be run in a scientific manner for the common good. They raised the problems of taxation and currency to a new importance, and impressed their significance upon the men who directed the industries of the country. In their prosperity they made it possible to save the Union; and at their close a Union party, uncertain of its strength and its personnel, faced the problems of a united country which included an industrial North, a desolated South, and a vanishing frontier.
For further references upon the Civil War period, consult William E. Dodd, Expansion and Conflict (in this series), and F.L. Paxson, The Civil War (1911). The best and most exhaustive narrative is J.F. Rhodes, History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 to the Final Restoration of Home Rule at the South in 1877 (7 vols., 1892-1906), and this may be supplemented to advantage by E.D. Fite, Social and industrial Conditions in the North during the Civil War (1910). There is a convenient account of the election of 1864, with platforms and tables of votes, in E. Stanwood, A History of the Presidency (1898) and there are many valuable documents in E. McPherson's annual Political Manual. The biographies of W.H. Seward, by F. Bancroft, and Jay Cooke, by E.P. Oberholtzer, are among the best of the period. There are no better summaries of finances than D.R. Dewey's Financial History of the United States (1903, etc.); W.C. Mitchell's History of the Greenbacks (1903); and J.A. Woodburn's Thaddeus Stevens (1913). In the Annual Cyclopaedia (published by D. Appleton & Co., 1861-1902) are useful and accurate accounts of current affairs. E.L. Godkin began to publish the Nation in New York in the summer of 1865, and H.V. Poore issued the first volume of his annual Manual of the Railroads of the United States, in 1868.
THE WEST AND THE GREENBACKS
The activity of the North and the East between 1861 and 1865 was imitated and magnified among the youthful communities that made up the western border and ranged in age from a few weeks to thirty years. These had been mostly agricultural in 1857. Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Kansas had been the frontier before the Civil War. In place of these, now grown to be populous and more or less sedate, a new group appeared farther west, within what had been believed to be the "American Desert." By 1868 Congress completed the subdivision of the last lands between the Missouri River and the Pacific, since which date only one new political division has appeared in the United States.
The last frontier, that developed after 1857, was novel as well as new. It was made up of mining camps. Everywhere in the Rocky Mountains prospectors staked out claims and introduced their free-and-easy life. Before 1857 the group of Mormons around the Great Salt Lake was the only considerable settlement between eastern Kansas and California. Now came in quick succession the rush to Pike's Peak and Colorado Territory (1861), the rush from California to the Carson Valley and Nevada Territory (1861), and the creation of the agricultural territory of Dakota (1861) for the up-river Missouri country, where in a few more years were revealed the riches of the Black Hills. In 1863 the mines of the lower Colorado River gave excuse for Arizona Territory. Those of the northern Continental Divide were grouped in Idaho in the same year, and divided in 1864 when Montana was created. Wyoming, the last of the subdivisions, was the product of mines and railroads in 1868. Oklahoma was not named for twenty years more, but had existed in its final shape since the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill in 1854.
The legitimate influence of these mining-camps upon the United States was great. It was no new thing for Congress to solve its national problems on the initiative of the West. Since the passage of the Ordinance of 1787 this had been a frequent occurrence, and the history of the public lands had always been directed by Western demands. In 1862 the agricultural West, whose capacity to cultivate land had been magnified by the new reaper of McCormick, had obtained its Homestead Act, by which land titles were conveyed to the farmer who cleared the land and used it. Thomas H. Benton had fought for this through a long lifetime. He died too soon to see the full apotheosis of the squatter, who gradually developed, in point of law, from the criminal stealing the public land to the public-spirited pioneer in whose interest a wise Congress ought to shape its laws. Under the influence of this new Homestead Law, aided by the Preemption Law, which remained in force, land titles were established in the Mountain States as rapidly as the Indians could be removed.
The frontier mining territories were loud in demanding that Congress should give them more land, remove the Indians, extend police protection, and give them mails and railroads. The miner disliked the isolation which his speculations brought upon him, and Congress unfolded new powers to remove it for him. In 1858 it organized the great overland mail that ran coaches to California in less than twenty-five days. The pony express provided faster service in 1860-61. And after private money had built the telegraph line to the Pacific, both Congress and the West took up the subject of a continental railway.
In the summer of 1862 a group of railroad companies was authorized to build a track from the Missouri River (which had already been reached at St. Joseph by a railway from the East) to California. As modified by law in 1864 the contract provided for extensive government aid in the speculation: twenty sections of land for every mile of track, and a loan of United States bonds at the rate of at least $16,000 per mile. But the West had little capital, and the prosperous East had better investments at home, so that money could hardly be got into this scheme on any terms. The Western promoters were driven to shifty extremes before they overcame the Eastern belief that no continental railroad could pay. Not until 1866 was the construction work begun in earnest.
[Illustration: THE WESTERN RAILWAY LANDGRANTS, 1850-1871
Explanation of the map of
THE WESTERN RAILWAY LAND GRANTS, 1850-1871
(This map is based upon the one in Donaldson, Public Domain, 948, and includes certain wagon-road lands.)
There never were any public lands in the State of Texas. Oklahoma lay within the Indian Country in which no lands were available for grants between 1850 and 1871.
The railway land grants, authorized between 1850 and 1871 lay within the areas shaded, and consisted, in all cases, of alternate sections on each side of the track. The sections retained by the United States were, however, withdrawn from entry upon filing of the railway survey, and remained withdrawn until the railway allotment had been made. Regions thus impeded in their development often became centers of hostility toward the railroads.]
Between 1866 and 1869 the building of the Union Pacific was the most picturesque enterprise in America. Across the great plains, the desert, and the mountains, from Council Bluffs to Sacramento, it was pushed. In the West, Stanford and his group of California visionaries carried the burden. The eastern end brought out no single great promoter. Both ends fought the problem of timber and stone and railroad iron, but most of all of labor. Stanford finally imported the Chinese coolie for the job. Civil War veterans and new immigrants did most of the work on the eastern end. And along the eastern stretches the Indian tribes of the plains watched the work with jealous eyes. The Pawnee, the Sioux, the Arapaho, and the Cheyenne saw in the new road the end of a tribal life based upon wild game.
Severe Indian outbreaks accompanied the construction of the railroad, as the tribes made their last stand in Wyoming, Colorado, and the Indian Territory. Before the line was done, the tribes of the plains were under control in two great concentration camps, in South Dakota and Indian Territory, and the worst of the Indian fighting in the West was over.
In the spring of 1869 the railroad was finished and a spectacular celebration was held near Ogden, in Utah Territory. The finishing stroke was everywhere regarded as national, since not only had Congress given aid, but the union of the oceans was an object of national ambition. With the completion, the problem shifted from the exciting risks of construction and finance to the prosaic duties of paying the bills, and with the shift came a natural falling-off in enthusiasm.
The Union Pacific was the longest railroad of the sixties, and aroused the greatest interest. In an economic way it is merely typical of the speculative expansion of the North that began early in the Civil War and continued increasingly thereafter. The United States was engaged in a period of hopeful growth such as has followed every panic. After a few years of depression, stagnation, and enforced economy, business had revived about 1861. Confidence had increased, loans had been made more freely, and capital had taken up again its search for profitable investment. In the newer regions, where permanent improvements were least numerous, the field for exploitation had been great. The climax of exploitation was reached throughout the West.
As had been true at all the stages of the westward movement, the West was heavily in debt, and upon a forced balance would generally have shown an excess of liabilities over assets. Borrowed money paid much of the cost of emigration. During the first year the pioneer often raised no crops and lived upon his savings or his borrowings. He and his local merchant and his bank and his new railroad had borrowed all they could, while the creditor, living necessarily in the older communities where saving had created a surplus for investment, lived in the East, or even in Europe. The necessary conditions of settlement and development had prepared the way for a new sectional alignment of business interests, those of the Far West and the Northwest taking their tone from the interests of a debtor class, while those of the East represented those of the creditor. The possible cleavage was revealed as real when the United States Treasury Department, in its work toward financial reconstruction, approached the subject of the greenbacks.
The legal-tender greenbacks, which were in circulation to the extent of $433,000,000 in 1865, constituted not only a part of the debt of the war, but the foundation of the currency in circulation. Throughout most of the war they were supplemented by the notes of state banks, local token-money, and fractional currency, or "shinplasters," of the United States. Coin ceased to circulate in 1862 and was used only by those whose contracts obliged them to pay in gold or silver. In 1863 Secretary Chase inaugurated a system of national banks, to circulate a uniform currency, secured by United States bonds, but these did not become a factor in business until the state bank notes had been taxed out of existence in 1865. After this time national banks were formed in large numbers, replacing the uncertain notes of the state banks with their own notes, which were quite as good as greenbacks. But all paper money was below par in 1865, and gold remained out of circulation, at a premium, until the end of 1878.
The depreciation of the greenbacks reflected a popular doubt as to the outcome of the Civil War. They entailed hardship upon all who received them as dollars, since their purchasing value was below the standard of one hundred cents in gold. When the Government, desperate in war time, forced its creditors to accept them at par, it did an injustice which it regarded as real, though necessary. The speedy restoration of the greenbacks to par received the immediate attention of the Treasury upon the return of peace.
Hugh McCulloch, of Indiana, who became Secretary of the Treasury in 1865, was a banker of long experience and success. He proposed, if allowed, to reduce the whole war debt, including the greenbacks, to long-term bonds bearing a low rate of interest, and to create a sinking fund which should redeem them as they fell due. This involved the withdrawal from circulation of the greenbacks, and the destruction of that amount of the money used in business. Congress authorized it, however, and McCulloch canceled greenbacks from month to month until he had reduced the total to $356,000,000 in February, 1868.
The withdrawal of the legal tenders had not been long under way before protests began to come in upon the Treasury and Congress from the West. Bad as the depreciated currency was, it was the only currency available for the active business of the country. If the greenbacks should go there would be nothing to take their place until coin should finally emerge from hiding. The reduction of the volume of money in a time of increasing business would enforce upon each dollar an enlarged activity and a greater market value. The price of money rising, the price of all commodities measured in money would necessarily fall, and in a period of falling prices the West thought it saw financial catastrophe. There was enough real truth in the contention that resumption meant a fall in prices for the Treasury to be compelled to make the difficult choice between this evil and the other evil of a depreciated currency forced upon the people.
The creditor East regarded the possible increase in the purchasing value of the dollar with entire complacency. Its selfish interests harmonized with sound theories of finance. But in the debtor West the process had so different an aspect that the financial obligations of the United States were obscured by the local interest.
The great "boom" of the West began after the depreciation had commenced. Most of the Western debts, whether on the farm of the settler, the stock of the merchant, or the bonds of the industrial corporation, had been created in legal-tender dollars of the value of the depreciated greenbacks. Any appreciation which might come to the greenbacks must increase the content-value of the debt. If "dollars," borrowed when they were worth sixty cents in gold, were to be repaid in "dollars" worth eighty or more cents in gold, the debtor was repaying one third more than he had received, and no appeal to the importance of public credit could make him forget his loss. He resented not only the decrease in the actual amount of money, but the appreciated value of the remainder.
McCulloch, trained in finance, was ready to sacrifice the debtor for the sake of national solvency,—and, indeed, one or the other had to yield. But Congress felt the pressure, which was strong from all the West, and most strong from the Northwest, between Pittsburg and Chicago, whose industry had been reorganized during the years of war. In February, 1868, the retirement of more greenbacks was forbidden by law, the amount then in circulation being $356,000,000. The inflation which war had brought about was legalized in time of peace, and the Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the issue of legal tenders, in either war or peace, is at the free discretion of Congress.
Like every other West, the West of 1868 was in debt; like every other debtor community, it was liable to yield to theories of inflation, and was prone to look to politics for redress of grievances. The farmers of Massachusetts and Connecticut had followed Shays for this purpose in 1786; Ohio and Kentucky had attacked the second Bank of the United States when it forced their banks to pay their debts; and now the Northwest listened to politicians who told them that more greenbacks would cure their ills.
The advocates of the Greenback movement urged that the legal tenders be retained as the foundation of the currency, and that all bonds and interest payable in "lawful money" be paid in paper. By thus increasing the volume of greenbacks in circulation they hoped to avoid a fall in prices or an increased pressure on the debtor. Wherever men were heavily in debt, they accepted this doctrine. George H. Pendleton, of Ohio, became its most prominent spokesman, though it received the support of men as far apart as Thaddeus Stevens and B.F. Butler, and on it as an issue Pendleton sought to obtain for himself the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1868.
[Footnote 1: In the cases of Knox vs. Lee and Juilliard vs. Greenman.]
The aspirations of Pendleton, when his friends brought his "Ohio Idea" to the national convention, in Tammany Hall, New York, on July 4, were opposed by the similar desires of Chief Justice Chase, who still wanted the Presidency, and Horatio Seymour, the Democratic war Governor of New York. In its leader, commenting on the convention, Harper's Weekly asserted that "The Democratic Convention of 1864 declared the war a failure. The loyal people scorned the words and fought on to an unconditional victory. The Democratic Convention of 1868 declares that the war debt shall be repudiated. And their words will be equally spurned by the same honorable people." Pendleton failed to secure the nomination, which went to Seymour, on the twenty-second ballot, with Francis P. Blair, Jr., for the Vice-Presidency, but the "Ohio idea" was embodied in the platform of the party, although Seymour distinctly disavowed it.
Pledged to what the East commonly regarded as repudiation, the Democratic party was severely handicapped at the beginning of the campaign. Not only could their opponents reproach Seymour as a Copperhead, but they could profess to be frightened by Wade Hampton and the "hundred other rebel officers who sat in the Convention." Already including "treason," and disloyalty, the indictment was amended to include dishonor, by the Republicans, who scarcely needed the strong popularity of Grant to carry them into office.
The Republican party was compelled to disguise itself as "Union" in 1864, and it paid for the disguise during the next four years. Upon the death of Lincoln, the Tennessee Democrat, Andrew Johnson, took the oath of office. The bond which kept Democrats and Republicans together as Unionists had dissolved with the surrender of Lee, so that Johnson was enabled to follow his natural bent as a strict constructionist. His policies had carried him far away from the radical Republicans before Congress convened for its session of 1865-66, and led to a positive breach with that body in 1866.
The quarrel between Johnson and the Republican leaders was occasioned by his views upon the rights of the Southern States, conquered in war and held within the military grasp of the United States. It was his belief, as it had been Lincoln's, that these States were still States and were in the Union, even though in a temporarily deranged condition. As President, entrusted with force to be used in executing the laws, he regarded himself as sole judge of the time when force should no longer be needed. And in this spirit he offered pardon to many leaders of the Confederacy in May, 1865. He followed amnesty with provisional governments, and proclaimed rules according to which the conquered States should revise their constitutions and reestablish orderly and loyal governments. He had reorganized the last of the eleven States before Congress could interfere with him.
The difference between Johnson and his Republican associates lay in the character of the restored electorates in the South. The whole white population had, in most States, been implicated in secession. There was no Union faction in the South that remained loyal throughout the war. Pardoned and restored to a full share in the Government, these Southern leaders would come back into Congress as Democrats, and with increased strength. The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, and raised the representation of the negroes in the South from the old three-fifths ratio to par. Every State would come back with more Representatives than it had had before the war, and with the aid of Northern Democrats it was not unlikely that a control of Congress might be obtained.
To Northern Republicans it was unreasonable that the conquered South should be rewarded instead of punished, and that any theory of reconstruction should risk bringing into power the party that Union men, headed by Lincoln, had defeated in 1864. Politicians, interested in the spoils of office, were enraged at the thought of losing them. Disinterested Northerners, who had sacrificed much to save the Union, believed it unsafe at once to hand it over to a combination of peace Democrats and former "rebels." Yet this was Johnson's plan, and Congress, with radical Republicans in control, set about to prevent it.
Although Johnson, as President, controlled the patronage, Congress possessed the power, if not the moral right, to limit him in its use. No appointment could be made without the consent of the Senate, which was Republican. In 1867 Congress enacted that no removal should be made without the same consent, in a Tenure-of-Office Bill that brought the dispute to a climax. More important than this power of concurrence was the exclusive right of each house to judge of "the elections, returns, and qualifications" of its own members. So long as the Southern Senators and Representatives were out of Congress no power could get them in without the consent of either house. Violent advisers of the President argued that a Congress excluding the members of eleven States by prearrangement was a "rump," and without authority, but they failed to influence either the conduct of the majority or the acts of Johnson.
In the Thirty-ninth Congress, which sat in 1865 and 1866, it was the problem of the leaders, Charles Sumner in the Senate and Thaddeus Stevens in the House, to hold the party together and to block the designs of the President. In the House, the heavy Republican majority made this easy. In the Senate the majority was slighter, and could be kept at two thirds only by unseating a Democratic Senator from New Jersey, after which event both houses were able to defy Johnson and to pass measures over his veto. The vetoes began when Johnson refused his consent to the Freedmen's Bureau and the Civil Rights Bills. These and all other important acts of reconstruction were forced upon the President by the two-thirds vote.
The split, so far as founded upon honest divergence in legal theory, was embarrassing. It was made disgraceful by the violence of the radical Republicans and the intemperate retorts of Johnson. In 1866 Congress sent the Fourteenth Amendment to the States for ratification. In 1867 it passed its bills for actual reconstruction under the control of the army of the United States, and defied Johnson to interfere by refusing to allow him to remove officials from office.
Johnson carried himself through the partisan struggle with ability and success. His language was often extreme, but he enforced the acts which Congress passed as vigorously as if they had been his own. So far as any theory of the Constitution met the facts of reconstruction, his has the advantage, but in a situation not foreseen by the Constitution force outranked logic, and the radical Republicans with two-thirds in each house possessed the force. There was no lapse in the President's diligence and no flaw in his official character which his enemies could use. They began to talk of impeachment in 1866, but could find no basis for it.
The Tenure-of-Office Act furnished the pretext for impeachment. Advised by his Attorney-General that it was unconstitutional, Johnson dismissed the Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, for whose protection the law had been passed. In removing Stanton he broke with Grant, commanding the army, over a question of veracity, and gave to Congress its chance. In February, 1868, the House of Representatives voted to impeach him.
The trial of Andrew Johnson before the Senate dragged through April and May. The articles of impeachment were long and detailed in their description of the unquestioned bad manners of the President, but the only specific violation of law cited was in the case of Stanton, and here it could be urged both that the law was unconstitutional and that it was so loosely drawn that it did not really cover this case. In brief, it was the policy of Johnson that was on trial, and it was finally impossible to persuade two-thirds of the Senators that this constituted a high crime or a misdemeanor. The President was acquitted in the middle of May, while the Republican party turned to the more hopeful work of electing his successor.
In the fight over Johnson party lines had been strengthened and defined so that no Unionist, not in sympathy with congressional reconstruction, could hope for the nomination. No other issue equaled this in strength. The greenback issue was condemned in a plank that denounced "all forms of repudiation as a national crime," but ran second to the basis of reconstruction. No other candidate than Ulysses S. Grant was considered at the Chicago Convention.
Few men have emerged from deserved obscurity to deserved prominence as rapidly as General Grant. In 1861 he was a retired army officer, and a failure. In 1863, as the victor at Fort Donelson and at Vicksburg, he loomed up in national proportions. In the hammering of 1864 and 1865 it was his persistence and moral courage that won the day. In 1868, as commander of the army, and fortunate in his quarrel with Johnson, he was the coveted candidate of both parties, for he had no politics. Held by his associations to the Republican leaders, he was nominated at Chicago on the first ballot, with Schuyler Colfax, of Indiana, as his Vice-President.
The nomination of Grant occurred as the impeachment trial was drawing to a close. Before Congress adjourned it readmitted several of the Southern States that had been restored under the control of Republican majorities. Tennessee was already back; the new States were North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Only three States remained under provisional control when Grant was elected in November and seated in the following March. As he took the oath of office there were few, North, South, or West, who did not rejoice in his election; he had defeated the Greenback pretension, which endeared him to the East; the West remembered that he had been born and bred in the Mississippi Valley; and to the South he presented the clean hands of the regular army officer, and the welcome promise of his letter of acceptance, "Let us have peace."
For general accounts of the Far West in this period consult K. Coman, Economic Beginnings of the Far West (2 vols., 1912), and F.L. Paxson, The Last American Frontier (1910). These should be supplemented by E.L. Bogart, Economic History of the United States (1907), K. Coman, Industrial History of the United States (2d ed., 1910), W.A. Scott, The Repudiation of State Debts (1893), and W.C. Mitchell, History of the Greenbacks. The more valuable memoirs include H. McCulloch, Men and Measures of Half a Century (1888), and J.G. Blaine, Twenty Years of Congress (2 vols., 1884). A brilliant analysis of the financial interests of the debtor sections is M.S. Wildman, Money Inflation in the United States (1905). Rhodes continues to furnish a comprehensive narrative, and is paralleled by the shorter W.A. Dunning, Reconstruction, Political and Economic, 1865-1877 (in The American Nation, vol. 22, 1907). A detailed account of impeachment politics is in D.M. DeWitt, Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson (1903), and in J.A. Woodburn, The Life of Thaddeus Stevens (1913). J.P. Davis, The Union Pacific Railway (1894), is the standard account of the early movement for a continental railroad. S.L. Clemens (Mark Twain) presents a vivid picture of frontier life in Roughing It (1872), while A.B. Paine, Mark Twain (3 vols., 1912), contains much material of general historical interest for this period.
THE RESTORATION OF HOME RULE IN THE SOUTH
The eight Southern States whose votes were cast in 1868 were far different from the States of the same names in 1860, and were, like the three still outside the Union, largely under the control of radical Republicans. Restoration, after a fashion, they had received, but it had been accompanied by a revolution in society, in politics, and in economic life. "Reconstruction" is an inappropriate name for what took place.
Many efforts have been made to show the price paid by the South for its attempt at independence, but these have always failed to be exact. No scheme of accounting can uncover all the costs. It is a sufficient suggestion as to the total that a million men, at the prime of life, were diverted from ordinary production for about three years. Not only did the South lose the products of their labor, but it lost many of them, while its houses, barns, and other permanent improvements wore out, were burned, or went to pieces from lack of care. Its slave property was destroyed. Poverty was universal within the region of the Confederacy when Johnson issued his amnesty proclamation and the troops came home.
The most immediate problems before the Southern planter in the spring of 1865 were his dilapidated buildings, his spring crops, and his labor supply. Without money or credit, he needed all the stiffness of a proud caste to hold off bankruptcy. The daughter of a prominent Mississippi planter told later how her father, at seventy years, did the family washing to keep his daughters from the tub. A society whose men and women took this view of housework (for the daughters let their father have his way) had much to learn before it could reestablish itself. Yet this same stubbornness carried the South through the twenty trying years after the war.
The system of slave labor was gone, but the negroes were still the chief reliance for labor. It appears from the scanty records that are available that the planters expected to reopen the plantations using the freedmen as hired laborers. In 1865 and 1866 they tried this, only to find that the negro had got beyond control and would not work. Supervision had become hateful to him. A vagrant life appealed to his desire for change. At best, he was unintelligent and indolent. In a few years it became clear that the old type of plantation had vanished, and that the substitute was far from satisfactory.
Failing at hiring the negro for wages, the planter tried to rent to him a part of the estate. But since the tenant was penniless the landlord had to find much or all of the tools and stock, and too often had to see the crops deserted while the negro went riding around the county on his mule, full of his new independence. The census records show the decline of the plantation as the labor system changed. In 1860 the average American farm contained 199 acres, while those of the eleven seceding States ranged in average from 245 in Arkansas, to 430 in Georgia, and 591 in Texas. All were far above the national average, for the economics of the plantation system impelled the owner ever to increase his holdings. In 1870, and again in 1880, the reports show a rapid decline. The average for the whole country went down from 199 to 134 acres in the twenty years, as intensive agriculture advanced, but the South declined more rapidly than the whole, and in 1880, in all but two States, the average farm was less than half its size before the Civil War.
The vagrant, shiftless freedman was a social problem as well as economic. To fix his new status was the effort of the legislatures that convened in 1865, under the control of those who had qualified as loyal in Johnson's scheme. In several States laws were passed relating to contracts, apprenticeship, and vagrancy, under which the negro was to be held to regular work and the employer was given the right to punish him. The laws represented the opinion of the white citizens that special provisions were needed to control and regulate the negro population now that the personal bond of the owner for the good behavior of his slaves was canceled. To the North, still excited and nervous in 1865, the laws appeared to embody an overt attempt to restore the essentials of slavery. They served to embitter Congress toward Johnson's plans, and to convince Republicans that the professed loyalty of former Confederates was hypocritical,—that these must not be permitted to return at once to federal office or to Congress.
It was not until the summer of 1867 that Congress substituted governments of its own design for those which Johnson had erected by proclamation. These, meanwhile, had proceeded to revise their constitutions and to adopt the Thirteenth Amendment, which was proclaimed as part of the Constitution in December, 1865. The direct hand of Congress was shown in the strengthening of the Freedmen's Bureau in the spring of 1866, and the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment in the following summer.
The Freedmen's Bureau had its excuse in the poverty and ignorance of the negroes who crowded about the invading armies. Toward the end of the war it was authorized to administer abandoned property, and to aid the freedmen in farming upon the same. It did wide charitable and educational work in easing the abrupt change from slavery to freedom, and would have been dissolved a year after the return of peace had not Congress maintained it to offset the tendencies of Johnson's administration. Hereafter the agents of the Bureau were thrown into politics until 1872.
The permanent government of the conquered South by the army was repugnant to even radical Northerners, yet the white inhabitants were Democratic almost to the last man, and if restored to civil rights would control their States. The only means of developing a Southern Republican party that might keep the South "loyal" was the enfranchisement of the freedman, for which purpose the Fourteenth Amendment was submitted. The agents of the Bureau were expected not only to feed and clothe the negroes, but to impress upon them the fact that they owed their freedom to the Republicans. Some spread the belief that the Democrats desired to restore slavery. Many built up personal machines. The responsibility upon these white directors of the negro vote was great, and was too often betrayed. Generally not natives, and with no stake in the Southern community, they lined their own pockets and earned the unkindly name of "carpet-baggers." The Territories had always known something of this type of ruler, but the States, hitherto, had known bad government only when they made it themselves.
The Reconstruction Acts of 1867 ordered the President to divide the South into five military districts, whose commanders should supersede all the state officers whom Johnson had restored. With troops behind them, these commanders were, first, to enroll on the voting list all males over twenty-one. The negroes, before the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, were thus given by Congress the right to vote in their respective States, and were included in the lists. Excluded from the lists were the leaders of every Southern community, those whites who had held important office in the Confederacy; and none was to be enrolled, white or black, until he had taken an ironclad and offensive oath of allegiance.
Based upon the list of voters thus made up, state conventions were to be summoned to revise the constitutions. In every case they must modify the laws to admit the status of the freedmen, must ratify the Fourteenth Amendment with its guaranty of civil rights, and must extend the right of suffrage to the blacks. When all these things had been done, with army officers constantly in supervision, the resulting constitutions were to be submitted to Congress for final approval or rejection.
No constitutional theory ever met all the problems of reconstruction. The war had been fought on the basis that no State can get out of the Union. If this was true, then all the States were still States, and it was a reasonable presidential function to restore order and withdraw the troops. The unreasonable result of this theory was the immediate restoration of an enlarged influence to those very men who had tried to break the Union, at a moment when the greenback movement threatened the foundations of public faith. Yet Congress, by pretending to readmit or restore States, denied that they were still States, and by implication conceded the principle for which the Confederacy had contended: that the members of the Union could get outside it. The power of Congress to seat or unseat members, however, placed it beyond all control. Every effort to get the courts to interfere broke down, when the suits were directed against the President (Mississippi vs. Andrew Johnson), or the Secretary of War (Georgia vs. Stanton). A personal suit that promised some relief (Ex parte McCardle) was evaded by a sudden amendment of the law relating to appeals. The situation was unpremeditated, and the Constitution made no provision for its facts. In the end, reconstruction must be judged by its results rather than by its legality. If it brought peace, restored prosperity, safeguarded the Union, and created no new grievances of its own, it was good, whatever the Constitution.
Johnson enforced the Reconstruction Acts with care, and the Southern conventions, meeting in the autumn of 1867, sat into the following winter. In five of the States the roll of electors showed a majority of negroes, and in none were conservatives able to control the election of delegates. The old leaders were still disfranchised, and many of them could not believe that the North would permit the radicals to subject them to the control of illiterate negroes. The resulting conventions contained many negroes and were dominated by white Republicans, carpet-baggers, or scalawags as the case might be. An active part in directing them was taken by the officers of the Freedmen's Bureau, while the freedmen were consolidated by the secret ritual of the Union League. Only Tennessee escaped the ordeal, she having ratified the Fourteenth Amendment so promptly that Congress could not evade admitting her in 1866.
An analysis of the conventions of 1867 reveals the extent of the political revolution which Congress intended to thrust upon the South, whose industrial revolution was now well advanced. Planters had begun already to break up their estates and entrust small holdings to cash renters, or share tenants, known as "croppers." Their financial burdens were heavy, but with intelligent government and reasonable commercial credits from the North, the problems of labor and capital might be met. But the men who must control the economic future of the South were excluded from the Government as traitors. Their places were filled by Northern adventurers and by negroes. The Mississippi convention included seventeen negroes, and was called the "black and tan." Inexperience and incompetence were in control, leading to extravagance and dishonesty, but the conventions were generally superior to the legislatures which followed them.
Framing new constitutions, most of the States had met the demands of Congress by the summer of 1868, with the respectable portion of the South looking on in desperate silence. The war had left no grievances equal to those now being suffered. Seven of the new constitutions were adopted in time for the radicals to give to their States votes in the election of 1868. Alabama, making the eighth, was allowed to vote under a constitution which Congress had forced upon her after it had failed of ratification by the people. Only Georgia and Louisiana, of these eight, did not give their votes to Grant. Only Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas remained without the pale when Grant was inaugurated in 1869.
The completion of reconstruction in its formal sense was reached during Grant's first Congress. Mississippi completed her process in February, 1870. She had in 1868 voted down the reconstruction constitution, taking courage in the leadership of a conservative governor, Humphreys. When he was removed, and replaced by a Northern governor, the conservatives lost heart and ratified the constitution that they had rejected. Their delay cost the State one more humiliation, since in the interval the Fifteenth Amendment had been submitted by Congress and made a condition of readmission for the recalcitrant States. A Republican legislature, the first fruit of reconstruction, accepted this and sent to Washington as the new Mississippi Senators the Northern military governor, Ames, and a negro preacher named Revels.
Virginia was readmitted in January, 1870. Her original loyal government under Pierpont, which Lincoln had respected, had been supplanted by a military regime, having lost its last chance for recognition when it rejected the Fourteenth Amendment in 1867. Under congressional direction a negro-radical convention made a new constitution which was forced upon the people in January, 1870. Texas, too, was in her final stage of restoration in 1870, and like Virginia and Mississippi was readmitted upon conditions that had become more onerous since the passage of the Reconstruction Acts in 1867.
Eleven States, all the old Confederacy, had been restored by the spring of 1870; but one, Georgia, was ejected after restoration, and thus became the last item in congressional reconstruction. In 1868 Georgia had ratified her new constitution and moved her capital from its ante-bellum location at Milledgeville to the new town growing upon the ashes of Atlanta. She had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment, but her first legislature had so poorly read the meaning of Congress that it expelled every negro whom the radicals had elected to membership. Congress had thereupon declined to seat the Georgia delegation at Washington, and had renewed the probationary period until the legislature, humbled and browbeaten, had undone the expulsion, whereupon Georgia received her final recognition.
The arbitrary acts of Congress, passed by the radicals over the unvarying vetoes of Johnson, find little sanction in the Constitution, but it is to be expected that the laws should suffer in a time of war. Congress held off the day of restoration until it saw in the South what its majority believed to be loyal governments. Its majority could not believe that any party but its own was loyal, and was thus led to a policy much more debatable than that of actual reconstruction. Step by step it moved. The abolition of slavery, in the Thirteenth Amendment (effective December 18, 1865), was expected by all and accepted without a fight. The next amendment, inspired by a fear that the freedmen would be oppressed and by a hope that they might be converted into a political ally of the Republicans, was submitted to the States before the Reconstruction Acts were passed, and was proclaimed as part of the Constitution July 28, 1868. Only compulsion upon the Southern States procured its ratification. It left negro suffrage optional with the States, but threatened them with a reduction in representation in Congress if they refrained from granting it. In the Southern States Congress had already planted a negro electorate by law. The Fifteenth Amendment forbade the denial of the right to vote on grounds of race, color, or previous condition of servitude, and was not submitted to the States until after the inauguration of General Grant. A fear that the South would disfranchise the freedmen, pay the price, and revert to Democratic control seems to have been the prime motive in its adoption. When it was proclaimed, March 30, 1870, the radical Republicans had done everything in their power to save themselves, and had inflicted on the conquered States, in malice, ignorance, or mistaken philanthropy, a condition that in the North, with its trifling number of negroes, was tolerated with reluctance.
The South was in name completely restored in 1870, but neither restoration nor reconstruction was in fact far advanced. In the latter process it was yet clearing away the wreckage of the institution of slavery, breaking up the plantations, devising new systems of tenure and wage, rebuilding the material equipment that the war had left desolate. The former process was only commenced. It was unthinkable that an American community should permit itself to remain subject to the absolute control of its least respected members, yet this was the aim of white disfranchisement and negro suffrage. Law or no law, the restoration of the South was not complete until its government was back in the control of its responsible white population.
Almost without exception, until 1870, the Southern State Governments were what Congress had chosen to make them. Their Senators and Representatives in Congress were Republican, commonly of the carpet-bag variety. Their governors, administrative officers, and legislatures were Republican, too. Rarely were they persons of property or standing in their communities, and often, as their records show, they were both black and illiterate. Had all possessed good intentions they could hardly have hoped to meet the local needs, which called for a wise revision of law in order that the community might recover and live. That their work should be accompanied by error and waste was inevitable.
From the contemporary accounts of travelers in the South, from public documents, from the growing body of Southern biography and reminiscence, it is easy to gather a mass of detail upon the extravagance of the Reconstruction Governments. Printing bills and salary lists rose without a corresponding increase in service done. When expenditures exceeded the revenues, loans were created carelessly and recklessly. For negroes, only a few months out of the cotton-field, there was an irresistible attraction in the plush carpets, the mahogany desks, and the imported cuspidors that the taxpayers might be forced to provide for the comfort of their servants. A free and continuous lunch, with ample food and drink, was set up in one of the capitols. Gratuitous waste was the least of the burdens inflicted upon the South.
It is unreasonable to lay all the corruption of the Reconstruction Governments to the account of the congressional policy. The period of the Civil War was one of abuse of power by local officials everywhere. It took a Tweed in New York to drive a Northern public to revolt, and a Nast to focus public attention upon the crime. In other States, where rogues were less brutal in their methods, or prosecutors less acute, the evil ran, not unnoticed but unchecked. In the South the same phenomena were resented with greater vigor than in the North because the crimes were more openly and clumsily committed, and because they were the work of "outsiders."
Deliberate theft of public money was so common as to occasion no surprise. In no State were books so kept that the modern student can be sure he knows where all the money went. Graft in contracts, fraud in the administration of schools and negro-relief schemes, sale of charters and votes, illegal issues of bonds, improvident loans to railroads, combined to enrich the office-holder and to increase the volume of public debts. A long series of repudiations of these debts injured Southern credit for many years. South Carolina occasioned the most vivid description of the orgy in a book entitled The Prostrate State, by a Maine abolitionist and Republican, named Pike; but several other States would have furnished similar materials to a similar historian.
So far as law was concerned, the South was helpless in those regions in which the negroes approached a majority. The military garrisons which Congress kept on duty saw to it that the freedmen were protected, yet were unable in the long run to control the white population. It is a vexed question whether negro violence or white was the first to appear, but by 1867 events had begun to point the way to the elimination of negro control by force or fraud. By law it could not be destroyed unless the whites struggled and argued for negro votes, treating the negroes as citizens and equals, which was generally as impossible as an acceptance of their control.
The Ku-Klux Klan was a secret movement, with slight organization, that appeared earliest in Tennessee, but spread to nearly every crossroads in the South. It began in the hazing of negroes and carpet-baggers who were insolent or offensive to their neighbors. Its members rode by night, in mask, with improvised pomp and ritual, and played as much upon the imagination of their victims as upon their bodies. Frequently it revenged private grievances and went to extremes of violence or murder. From hazing it was an easy step to intimidation at election time, the Ku-Klux Klan proving to be an efficient means of reducing the negro vote. It was so efficient, indeed, that Grant asked and Congress voted, in 1871, special powers for the policing of the South. In this summer a committee of Congress visited Southern centers and accumulated a great mass of testimony from which a picture of both the Ku-Klux Klan outrages and the workings of reconstruction may easily be drawn. The reign of terror subsided by 1872, but it had done much to dissuade the negro from using his new right, and had started the movement for home rule in the South.
That the normal politics of the South was Democratic is shown by the votes of the border States, where a population of freedmen had to be assimilated and Congress could not interfere. Delaware, Maryland, and Kentucky voted against Grant in 1868, although all the restored Confederate States but two voted for him. In Georgia the Democrats swallowed their pride, electioneered among the negroes, and elected a conservative State Government in 1870. Tennessee escaped negro domination from the start. Virginia, late to be readmitted, had consolidated her white population as she watched the troubles in South Carolina and Mississippi, and never elected a radical administration. In North Carolina, after a fight that approached a civil war, a Democratic State Government was chosen in 1870. The rest of the Confederate States followed as opportunity offered; after 1872 the process was rapid, and after 1876 there was no Republican administration in the old South. The Republican party, itself, almost disappeared from the South at this time. A bare organization, largely manned by negroes, endured to enjoy the offices which a Republican National Administration could bestow, and to contribute pliant delegations to the national conventions of the party. But the South had become solid in the sense that its votes were recorded almost automatically for the Democratic ticket.
Force and fraud played a large part in the restoration of white control, but it could not have been effective without some connivance from the North. Before 1872 the keenness of Northern radicalism was blunted. Thoughtful Republicans began to examine their work and criticize it. "We can never reconstruct the South," wrote Lowell, "except through its own leading men, nor ever hope to have them on our side till we make it for their interest and compatible with their honor to be so." A social order which needed the constant support of troops lost the confidence of political independents. These, as the presidential campaign of 1872 drew near, openly expressed their hostility to reconstruction as carried out by Grant, and threatened to prevent his reelection.
The first term of Grant ended unsatisfactorily. His appointments to office were marked by favoritism and incapacity. He appointed the only really inferior man who has ever represented the United States in London,—one who thought it not incompatible with his high office to publish a treatise on draw-poker, and to appear as bellwether in a mining prospectus. Grant's personal intimates included shifty financiers. Corruption and misgovernment at the South were held against him, though Congress was properly to blame for them. Only in his stand for honest finance, his effort to improve the Indian service, and his conclusion of the disputes with Great Britain, could his supporters take great pride.
The settlement with England was his greatest achievement. Since the summer of 1862, when the Alabama had evaded the British officials and had gone to sea, the American Minister in London had continued to press for damages. The Alabama claims were based on the assertion that the law of neutrals required Great Britain to prevent any hostile vessel from starting, in her waters, upon a cruise against the United States. In the face of official rebuff and popular sneers Charles Francis Adams formulated the claims. His successor, Reverdy Johnson, reached a sort of settlement which the Senate declined to ratify, and which Sumner denounced. It was Sumner's contention that the Civil War was prolonged by British aid and that a demand for national damages (perhaps $2,000,000,000, or Canada, by way of substitute) ought to be advanced. So tense did the international situation become in 1869 and 1870 that friends of peace were frightened. Boundaries, fisheries, and general claims aggravated the situation, which was given into the hands of a Joint High Commission, hastily summoned to meet in Washington in 1870. The resulting Treaty of Washington, and the successful arbitrations which followed it, eliminated Sumner's extreme contention but vindicated the main American claims and founded Anglo-American relations on a more secure basis than they had ever known. It was Grant's great triumph, but it was a political danger as well, for the negotiator in charge, Charles Francis Adams, loomed up as the possible presidential candidate of the Republican dissenters.
The Liberal Republicans included the enemies of Grant as well as dissatisfied reformers of all sorts. Carl Schurz, the great German-American independent, was their leader. Horace Greeley, whose Tribune had done much to make the Republican party possible, gave them his support. Charles Francis Adams was not indifferent to them. Salmon P. Chase wanted their nomination. Young newspaper men, like Whitelaw Reid and Henry Watterson, tried to control them. And the new group of civil service reformers, disappointed in Grant, hoped that the new party would take a step toward better government. At Cincinnati, in May, 1872, they met in mass convention, and nominated Horace Greeley and Gratz Brown. Their platform denounced Republican reconstruction, urged the return to self-government in the South, and advocated civil service reform, specie payments, and maintenance of public credit. The schism became more threatening when the Democrats saw a chance through fusion, and nominated the same candidates at Baltimore in July.