The Reconstruction Years

From the ashes of the most terrible war in American history began the agonizing process of restoring the Union that became known as Reconstruction. Like the War Between the States itself, Reconstruction lasted longer and produced more tragedy than ever anticipated.

This work explores the era’s important events in a year-by-year digest. These events reflect the unintended and tragic consequences of excessive government intervention in the liberties of the people. They also illustrate how such intervention has helped transform America from a constitutional republic to the centralized empire that it is today.

Key events that shaped both Reconstruction and subsequent American history include:

  • The permanent shift in the American economy from an agricultural to an industrial base
  • The subjugation of former Confederates through the military and corrupt state governments, followed by the subjugation of former slaves through Jim Crow laws
  • The new alliance between business and government, which introduced the crony capitalist economic system that flourishes today
  • The rise of organized labor, women’s suffrage, and other special interest groups seeking recognition
  • The political intrigues and scandals that undermined the people’s trust in government
  • The westward expansion that encroached on the land of Native Americans and virtually annihilated their way of life

Four years of war resulted in the destruction of the southern economy and way of life. The misery and resentment caused by this destruction was made worse by a federal government determined to punish the South, first for attempting secession, then for trying to reinstate the traditional social order.

Before the Civil War, the relationship between the federal and state governments was considered a co-equal arrangement in which one had the power to check and balance the other. The war established federal supremacy over the states, and Reconstruction made that supremacy permanent. This new arrangement began the unprecedented growth of federal authority over the states and the people that has continued ever since. This growth would establish America as a world power by the beginning of the 20th century.

These fundamental and permanent changes to America are explored, as well as how such changes have posed a threat to individual freedom ever since. As a resource guide to a vital yet often misunderstood era in American history, this is essential reading.