Thursday, October 7, 2010

Grant's Last Battle

U.S. Grant served the country as president for 8 years during the time called Reconstruction. Much of the South hadn't accepted the results of the civil war. In retrospect, Grant thought there should have been a long period - as long as 20 years - of military government only allowing the southern states back in the Union when they were they were ready to accept the terms of Reconstruction ie, national unity and the end of slavery. Instead, Grant fought a long, protracted battle with the South over the rights of Blacks. He authorized the use of troops to fight the Ku Klux Klan's reign of terror as well as many other terrorist attacks on former slaves. The 15th amendment adopted in 1870 was unenforced in much of the South and proved to be unenforceable. Grant, with all the resources at his disposal basically had run out of energy by the end of his second term. The North had lost the moral strength to keep the battle for civil rights going. By the Panic of 1873 most Americans were focused on the economy. Civil Rights in Congress and the North was a lost cause. Rutherford B. Hayes who followed Grant as president was compromised from the start. Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana were mired in nearly hopeless election fraud. There were reports of widespread election thuggery and violence designed to keep Blacks and pro- Republicans from the polls. In one Louisiana parish there were over 1500 fewer Republican voters than four years before (there was only "one" Republican voter reported in the Hayes race!). Hayes was unofficially one electoral vote behind his opponent, Samuel Tilden, who actually won the popular vote. Grant called for an election commission to try to sort out the election fraud and eventually Hayes was awarded the victory. But it came at a high price for Southern Blacks. Hayes pledged to withdraw the federal troops from the South, end Reconstruction and essentially hand the South back to the White Democrats. It was the presidency for Hayes but the beginning of almost 100 years of Jim Crow Laws for the former slaves who were technically free but wouldn't realize that freedom for years and years.