The United States Since The Civil War by Charles Ramsdell Lingley

Produced by Charles Aldarondo, Keren Vergon, Beth Trapaga and PG Distributed Proofreaders THE UNITED STATES SINCE THE CIVIL WAR By CHARLES RAMSDELL LINGLEY Professor of History, Dartmouth College. TO MY WIFE 1920. PREFACE To write an account of the history of the United States since the Civil War without bias, without misstatements of fact and
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Produced by Charles Aldarondo, Keren Vergon, Beth Trapaga and PG Distributed Proofreaders




Professor of History, Dartmouth College.




To write an account of the history of the United States since the Civil War without bias, without misstatements of fact and without the omission of matters that ought to be included, would be to perform a miracle. I have felt no wonder-working near me. I can claim only to have attempted to overcome the natural limitations of having been brought up in a particular region and with a traditional political, economic and social philosophy. I have tried to present as many sides of every question as the limitations of space permitted and to look sympathetically upon every section, every party and every individual, because the sympathetic critic seems to me most likely to discover the truth.

It used to be believed that history could not be written until at least half a century had elapsed after the events which were to be chronicled. It is of course true that only after the lapse of time can students gain access to ample documentary material, rid themselves of partisan prejudice and attain the necessary perspective. Unhappily, however, the citizen who takes part in public affairs or who votes in a political campaign cannot wait for the labors of half a century. He must judge on the basis of whatever facts he can find near at hand. Next to a balanced intelligence, the greatest need of the citizen in the performance of his political duties is a substantial knowledge of the recent past of public problems. It is impossible to give a sensible opinion upon the transportation problem, the relation between government and industry, international relations, current politics, the leaders in public affairs, and other peculiarly American interests without some understanding of the United States since the Civil War. I have tried in a small way to make some of this information conveniently available without attempting to beguile myself or others into the belief that I have written with the accuracy that will characterize later work.

Some day somebody will delineate the _spiritual_ history of America since the Civil War–the compound of tradition, discontent, aspiration, idealism, materialism, selfishness, and hope that mark the floundering progress of these United States through the last half century. He will read widely, ponder deeply, and tune his spirit with care to the task which he undertakes. I have not attempted this phase of our history, yet I believe that no account is complete without it.

I have drawn heavily on others who have written in this field–Andrews, Beard, Paxson and Peck, and especially on the volumes written for the American Nation series by Professors Dunning, Sparks, Dewey, Latané and Ogg. Haworth’s _United States in Our Own Time, 1865-1920_, was unfortunately printed too late to give me the benefit of the author’s well-known scholarship. Many friends have generously assisted me. My colleagues, Professors F.A. Updyke, C.A. Phillips, G.R. Wicker, H.D. Dozier, and Malcolm Keir have read the manuscript of individual chapters. Professor E.E. Day of Harvard University gave me his counsel on several economic topics. Professor George H. Haynes of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Professor B.B. Kendrick of Columbia University, Professor W.T. Root of the University of Wisconsin, and Professors L.B. Richardson and F.M. Anderson of Dartmouth College have read the entire manuscript. Officials at the Dartmouth College Library, the Columbia University Library, and the Library of Congress gave me especial facilities for work. Two college generations of students at Dartmouth have suffered me to try out on them the arrangement of the chapters as well as the contents of the text. Harper and Bros. allowed me to use a map appearing in Ogg, _National Progress_, and D. Appleton and Co. have permitted the use of maps appearing in Johnson and Van Metre, _Principles of Railroad Transportation_; A.J. Nystrom and Co. and the McKinley Publishing Co. have allowed me to draw new maps on outlines copyrighted by them. At all points I have had the counsel of my wife and of Professor Max Farrand of Yale University.

Dartmouth College, June 14, 1920.



XXI POLITICS, 1908-1912



The growth of the United States from 1776 to 1867

Popular vote in presidential elections, 1868 to 1896

Economic interests, 1890

Relative prices, 1865 to 1890

The New West

Railroad mileage, 1860 to 1910, in thousands of miles

Map of the United States showing railroads in 1870

Map of the United States showing railroads in 1890 (The maps showing the railroads are from Johnson and Van Metre, Principles of Railroad Transportation, by courtesy of the publishers, D. Appleton & Co.)

Financial operations, 1875 to 1897, in millions of dollars

Total silver coinage, 1878 to 1894, in millions of dollars

Net gold in the treasury, by months, January, 1893, to February, 1896, in millions of dollars

The presidential election of 1896

The Philippines

The Spanish-American War in the West Indies

Campaign about Santiago

The chief foreign elements in the population of the United States

The cost of food, 1900 to 1912

Morgan-Hill railroads as listed shortly after 1900

Daily newspaper circulation, 1918

Election of 1904 by counties

Caribbean interests of the United States

Election of 1916 by counties

The Western Front

Strength of the American Expeditionary Force, July 1, 1917, to November 1, 1918

The United States–1920

The cost of food, January, 1913, to January, 1920



Abraham Lincoln in the presidential chair was regarded by many of the politicians of his party as an “unutterable calamity”; and while the news of Lincoln’s assassination was received with expressions of genuine grief, the accession of Vice-President Andrew Johnson was looked upon as a “Godsend to the country.” As the Civil War came to a close, Lincoln opposed severe punishments for the leaders of the Confederacy; he urged respect for the rights of the southern people; he desired to recognize the existence of a Union element in the South, to restore the states to their usual relations with as little ill-feeling as possible, and in the restoration process to interfere but little with the normal powers of the states. Johnson, on the contrary, “breathed fire and hemp.” “Treason,” he asserted over and again, “should be made odious, and traitors must be punished and impoverished. Their great plantations must be seized, and divided into small farms and sold to honest, industrious men.” For a time it seemed that the curtain would go down on the tragedy of Civil War only to rise immediately on the execution of the Confederate leaders and the confiscation of their property. A large and active group of Washington politicians believed in the necessity of a stern accounting with the “rebels.” Lincoln’s gentleness seemed to these bitter northerners like a calamity; Johnson’s vindictiveness like a Godsend to the country. In the conflict between the policy of clemency and the policy of severity is to be found the beginning of the period of reconstruction.

Andrew Johnson was a compact, sturdy figure, his eyes black, his complexion swarthy. In politics he had always been a Democrat. So diverse were his characteristics that one is tempted to ascribe two personalities to him. He was a tenacious man, possessed of a rude intellectual force, a rough-and-ready stump speaker, intensely loyal, industrious, sincere, self-reliant. His courage was put to the test again and again, and nobody ever said that it failed. His loyalty held him in the Union in 1861, although he was a senator from Tennessee and his state as well as his southern colleagues were withdrawing. His public and private integrity withstood a hostile investigation that included the testimony of all strata of society, from cabinet officers to felons in prison. Later, at the most critical moment of his whole career, when he had hardly a friend on whom to lean, he was unflurried, dignified, undismayed.

Although Johnson was born in North Carolina, the greater part of his life was spent in eastern Tennessee. His education was of the slightest. His wife taught him to write, and while he plied his tailor’s trade she read books to him that appealed to his eager intellect. When scarcely of voting age he became mayor of the town in which he lived and by sheer force of character made his way up into the state legislature, the federal House of Representatives and the Senate. President Lincoln made him military governor of Tennessee in 1862. In 1864 many Democrats and most Republicans joined to form a Union party, and in order to emphasize its non-sectional and non-partisan character they nominated Andrew Johnson as Lincoln’s running mate. And now this unschooled, poor-white, slave-holding, Jeffersonian, states-rights Democrat had become President of the United States.

It was scarcely to be expected that a man who had fought his way to the fore in eastern Tennessee during those controversial years would possess the characteristics of a diplomat. Even his friends found him uncommunicative, too often defiant and violent in controversy, irritating in manners, indiscreet, and lacking flexibility in the management of men. The messages which he wrote as President were dignified and judicious, and his addresses were not lacking in power, but he was prone to indulge in unseemly repartee with his hearers when speaking on the stump. He exchanged epithets with bystanders who were all too ready to spur him on with their “Give it to ’em, Andy!” and “Bully for you, Andy!” giving the presidency the “ill-savor of a corner grocery” and filling his supporters with amazement and chagrin. The North soon looked upon him as a vulgar boor and remembered that he had been intoxicated when inaugurated as Vice-President. Unhappily, too, he was distrustful by nature, giving his confidence reluctantly and with reserve, so that he was almost without friends or spokesmen in either house of Congress. His policies have commended themselves, on the whole, even after the scrutiny of half a century. The extent to which he was able to put them into effect is part of the history of reconstruction.

The close of the Civil War found the nation as well as the several sections of the country facing a variety of complicated and pressing social, economic and political problems. Vast armies had to be demobilized and re-absorbed into the economic life of the nation. Production of the material of war had to give way to the production of machinery, the building of railroads and the tilling of the soil. The South faced economic demoralization. The federal government had to determine the basis on which the lately rebellious states should again become normal units in the nation, and the civil, social and economic status of the negro had to be readjusted in the light of the outcome of the war. Most of these problems, moreover, had to be solved through political agencies, such as party conventions and legislatures, with all the limitations of partisanship that these terms convey. And they had obviously to be solved through human beings possessed of all the prejudices and passions that the war had aroused: through Andrew Johnson with his force and tactlessness; through able, domineering and vindictive Thaddeus Stevens; through narrow and idealistic Charles Sumner and demagogic Benjamin F. Butler; as well as through finer spirits like William Pitt Fessenden and Lyman Trumbull.

In their attitude toward the South, the people of the North, as well as the politicians, fell into two groups. The smaller or radical party desired a stern reckoning with all “rebels” and the imprisonment and execution of the leaders.[1] They hoped, also, to effect an immediate extension to the negroes of the right to vote. It was this faction that welcomed the accession of Johnson to the Presidency. The other group was much the larger and was inclined toward gentler measures and toward leaving the question of suffrage largely for the future. Lincoln and his Secretary of State, Seward, were representative of this party. The attitude of the South toward the North was more difficult to determine. To be sure the rebellious states were beaten, and recognized the fact. There was general admission that slavery was at an end. But careful observers differed as to whether the South accepted its defeat in good faith and would treat the blacks justly, or whether it was sullen, unrepentant and ready to adopt any measures short of actual slavery to repress the negro.

In theory, the union of the states was still intact. The South had attempted to secede and had failed. Practically, however, the southern states were out of connection with the remainder of the nation and some method must be found of reconstructing the broken federation. President Lincoln had already outlined a plan in his proclamation of December 8, 1863. Excluding the leaders of the Confederacy, he offered pardon to all others who had participated in the rebellion, if they would take an oath of loyalty to the Union and agree to accept the laws and proclamations concerning slavery. As soon as the number of citizens thus pardoned in each state reached ten per cent. of the number of votes cast in that state at the election of 1860, they might establish a government which he would recognize. It was his expectation that a loyal body of reconstructed voters would collect around this nucleus, so that in no great while the entire South would be restored to normal relations. At the same time he called attention to the fact that under the Constitution the admission into Congress of senators and representatives sent by these governments must rest exclusively with the houses of Congress themselves. In pursuance of his policy he had already appointed military governors in states where the federal army had secured a foothold, and they directed the re-establishment of civil government. The radicals opposed the plan because it left much power, including the question of negro suffrage, in the hands of the states. A contest between Congress and the executive was clearly imminent when the assassin’s bullet removed the patient and conciliatory Lincoln.

Lincoln’s determination to leave control over their restoration as far as possible in the hands of the states was in line with Johnson’s Democratic, states-rights theories. Moreover, the new executive retained his predecessor’s cabinet, including Seward, whose influence was promptly thrown on the side of moderation. To the consternation of the radicals the President issued a proclamation announcing a reconstruction policy which substantially followed that of Lincoln. Like his predecessor he intended to confine the voting power to the whites, leaving to the states themselves the question whether the ballot should be extended to any of the blacks. Wherever Lincoln had not already acted, he appointed military governors who directed the establishment of state governments, the revival of the functions of county and municipal officials, the repeal of the acts of secession, the repudiation of the war debts, and the election of new state legislatures, governors, senators and representatives. The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, was ratified by the new legislatures and declared in effect December 18, 1865.

During the last half of the year, the President’s policy met with wide approval among the people of the North, where both Republicans and Democrats expressed satisfaction with his conciliatory attitude. The South was not unpleased, as was indicated by the speed with which men presented themselves for pardon and assisted in setting up new state governments. Nevertheless there were disquieting possibilities of dissension. Northern radicals could be counted upon to oppose so moderate a policy. There was a reaction, too, against the great power which the executive arm of the government had exercised in war time. Congress felt that it had been thrust aside, its functions reduced and its prestige diminished. It could be looked to for an assertion of its desire to dominate reconstruction. Finally when ex-confederates began to be elected to office, many a northerner shook his head and wondered whether the South was attempting to get into the saddle once more.

When Congress convened in December, 1865, its members held a wide variety of opinions in regard to the best method of restoring the confederate states to the Union. On one point, however, there was some agreement–that Congress ought to withhold approval of executive reconstruction until it could decide upon a program of its own. Led by Thaddeus Stevens, the radical leader of the House, a joint congressional committee of fifteen was appointed to report whether any of the southern state governments were entitled to representation in Congress. For the present, all of them, even the President’s own state, were to be denied representation. With Stevens as chairman of the House Committee on Reconstruction and Johnson in the President’s chair, a battle was inevitable, in which quarter would be neither asked nor given.

Unhappily for themselves, the southern states played unwittingly into the hands of Stevens and his radical colleagues. The outcome of the war had placed upon the freedmen responsibilities which they could not be expected to carry. To many of them emancipation meant merely cessation from work. Vagabondage was common. Rumor was widespread that the government was going to give each negro forty acres of land and a mule, and the blacks loafed about, awaiting the division. The strict regulations which had surrounded the former slave were discarded and it was necessary to accustom him to a new regime. “The race was free, but without status, without leaders, without property, and without education.” Fully alive to the dangers of giving unrestricted freedom to so large a body of ignorant negroes, the southern whites passed the “black codes,” which placed numerous limitations on the civil liberty of “persons of color.” In some cases they were forbidden to carry arms, to act as witnesses in court except in cases involving their own race, and to serve on juries or in the militia. Vagrancy laws enabled the magistrates to set unemployed blacks at work under arrangements that amounted almost to peonage. It is now evident that the South was actuated by what it considered the necessities of its situation and not merely by a spirit of defiance. Yet the fear on the part of the North that slavery was being restored under a disguise was not unnatural. Radical northern newspapers and leading extremists in Congress exaggerated the importance of the codes until they seemed like a systematic attempt to evade the results of the war. As Republican leaders in Congress saw the satisfaction created in the South by the President’s policy, and discovered that northern Democrats were rallying to his support, the jealousies of partisanship caused them still further to increase their grip on the processes of reconstruction. A disquieting by-product of the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery, also began to appear. Hitherto only three-fifths of the negroes had been counted in apportioning representation in the House of Representatives. As soon as the slaves became free, however, they were counted as if they were whites, and thereby the strength of the South in Congress would be increased. It was hardly to be expected that the North would view such a development with satisfaction.

The first action of the leaders in Congress was the introduction of a bill to continue and extend the powers of the Freedmen’s Bureau, a federal organization which supervised charitable relief given the negroes, protected them in making contracts for labor and assumed a sort of guardianship over the race in making its transition out of slavery. The new measure was intended to continue this federal tutelage of the blacks. The President’s veto of the bill, February 19, 1866, served to widen the breach between him and Congress and thereby postponed still further the admission of the representatives of the southern state governments. Three days later Johnson addressed a crowd which collected before the White House. In the course of his speech he lost control of himself to such an extent as to indulge in undignified remarks and personalities, and even to charge leaders in Congress with seeking to destroy the fundamental principles of American government. Thoughtful men everywhere were dismayed. In the meantime a Civil Rights bill was pending in Congress, the purpose of which was to declare negroes to be citizens of the United States and to give them rights equal to those accorded other citizens, notwithstanding local or state laws and codes. The President objected to the bill as an unconstitutional invasion of the rights of the states, but it was promptly passed over the veto. Scarcely any members of Congress now supported him except the Democrats. The conservative or conciliatory Republicans were lost to him for good. Throughout the North it was felt that protection must be accorded the freedmen against the black codes, and when the President opposed it he lost ground outside of Congress as well as in it. “From that time Johnson was beaten.”

Stevens in the House and Sumner and others in the Senate were now in a position to press successfully a stern, congressional reconstruction policy to replace that of the executive. The first item in the radical program was the Fourteenth Amendment, which passed Congress in June, 1866, although it did not become of force until 1868. It contained four sections: (1) making citizens of all persons born or naturalized in the United States and forbidding states to abridge their rights; (2) providing for the reduction of the representation in Congress of any state that denied the vote to any citizens except those guilty of crimes; (3) disabling confederate leaders from holding political office except with the permission of Congress; and (4) prohibiting the payment of confederate debts. The first section was, of course, designed to put the civil rights of the negro into the Constitution where they would be safe from hostile legislation. The second sought to get negro suffrage into the South by indirection at a time when a positive suffrage amendment could not be passed. The third was to take the pardoning power out of executive hands.

At this point there came a halt in the controversy until the country could be heard from in the congressional elections of 1866. Both sides made unusual efforts to organize political sentiment. Both attempted to demonstrate their thoroughly national character by holding conventions attended by southern as well as northern delegates. Each angled for the soldier vote by encouraging conferences of veterans. Late in July occurred an incident which the radicals were able to use to advantage. A crowd of negroes attending a convention in New Orleans in behalf of suffrage for their race became engaged in a fight with white anti-suffragists and many of the blacks were killed. The riot was commonly referred to in the North as a “massacre,” the moral of which was that the negroes must be protected against the unrepentant rebels. But it was Johnson himself who furnished greatest aid to his adversaries. Having been invited to speak in Chicago, he determined upon an electioneering trip, “swinging around the circle,” he called it. Again he was guilty of gross indiscretions. He made personal allusions, held angry colloquies with the crowd and at one place met such opposition that he had to retire unheard. It mattered little that the greater part of his speeches were sound and substantial. His lapses were held up to public scorn and he returned to Washington amid the hoots of his enemies. It was commonly believed that he had been intoxicated. Probably no orator, _The Nation_ sarcastically remarked, ever accomplished so much by a fortnight’s speaking. There could be little doubt as to the outcome of the elections. The Republicans carried almost every northern state and obtained a two-thirds majority in each house of Congress, with which to override vetoes.

As if impelled by some perverse fate the southern whites during the fall and winter of 1866-67 did the thing for which the bitterest enemy of the South might have wished. Except in Tennessee, the legislature of every confederate state refused with almost complete unanimity to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment. Natural as the act was, it gave the North apparently overwhelming proof that the former “rebels” were still defiant. Encouraged by the results of the election and aroused by the attitude of the South toward the Amendment, Congress proceeded to encroach upon prerogatives that had hitherto been considered purely executive, and also to pass a most extreme plan of reconstruction.

The first of these measures, the Tenure of Office Act, was passed over a veto on March 2, 1867. By it the President was forbidden to remove civil officers except with the consent of the Senate. Even the members of the Cabinet could not be dismissed without the permission of the upper house, a provision inserted for the protection of Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War. Stanton was in sympathy with the radical leaders in Congress and it was essential to them that he be kept in this post of advantage. General Grant, who had charge of the military establishment, was made almost independent of the President by a law drafted secretly by Stanton. On the same day, and over a veto also, was passed the Reconstruction Act, the most important piece of legislation during the decade after the war. It represented the desires of Thaddeus Stevens and was passed mainly because of his masterful leadership. At the outset the new Act declared the existing southern state governments to be illegal and inadequate, and divided the South into five military districts. Over each was to be a commanding general who should preserve order, and continue civil officers and civil courts, or replace them with military tribunals as he wished. Under his direction each state was to frame and adopt a new constitution which must provide for negro suffrage. When Congress should approve the constitution and when a legislature elected under its provisions should adopt the Fourteenth Amendment, the state might be readmitted to the Union.

The Reconstruction Act was remarkable in several features. The provision imposing negro suffrage was carried through the Senate with difficulty and only as the result of the tireless activity of Charles Sumner. Sumner and other radicals were determined that the blacks should be enfranchised in order that they might protect themselves from hostile local legislation and also in order that they might form part of a southern Republican party. Even more noteworthy was the military character of the Act. The President had already exercised his prerogative of declaring the country at peace on August 20, 1866, more than six months before the Act was passed. In the decision in the Milligan case, which preceded the Act by nearly three months, the Supreme Court had decided that military tribunals were illegal except where war made the operation of civil courts impossible. Military reconstruction was illogical, not to say unlawful, therefore, but Congress was more interested in a method that promised the speedy accomplishment of its purposes than it was in the opinions of the executive and judicial departments.

Despite his dissent from its provisions, the President at once set military reconstruction in operation. When he mitigated its harshness, however, where latitude was allowed him, Congress passed additional acts, over the veto, of course, extending and defining the powers of the commanding generals. Armed with complete authority, the generals proceeded to remove many of the ordinary civil officers and to replace them with their own appointees, to compel order by means of the soldiery, to set aside court decrees and even to close the courts and to enact legislation. In the meanwhile a total of 703,000 black and 627,000 white voters were registered, delegates to constitutional conventions were elected, constitutions were drawn up and adopted which permitted negro suffrage, and state officers and legislators elected. In conformity with the provisions of the Act, the newly chosen legislatures ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, sent representatives and senators to Washington, where they were admitted to Congress, and by 1871 the last confederate state was reconstructed.

The commanding generals were honest and efficient, in the main, even if their stern rule was distasteful to the South, but the regime of the newly elected state officers and legislators was a period of dishonesty and incapacity. Most of the experienced and influential whites had been excluded from participation in politics through the operation of the presidential proclamations and the reconstruction acts. In all the legislatures there were large numbers of blacks–sometimes, indeed, they were in the majority. Two parties appeared. The radical or Republican group included the negroes, a few southern whites, commonly called “scalawags,” and various northerners known as “carpet-baggers.” These last were in some cases mere adventurers and in others men of ability who were attracted to the South for one reason or another, and took a prominent part in political affairs. The old-time whites held both kinds in equal detestation. The other party was called conservative or Democratic, and was composed of the great mass of the whites. Many of them had been Whigs before the war, but in the face of negro-Republican domination, nearly all threw in their lot with the conservatives.

Not all the activities of the legislatures were bad. Provisions were made for education, for example, that were in line with the needs of the states. Nevertheless, their conduct in the main was such as to drive the South almost into revolt. In the South Carolina legislature only twenty-two members out of 155 could read and write. The negroes were in the majority and although they paid only $143 in taxes altogether, they helped add $20,000,000 to the state debt in four years. In Arkansas the running expenses of the state increased 1500 per cent.; in Louisiana the public debt mounted from $14,000,000 to $48,000,000 between 1868 and 1871. Only ignorance and dishonesty could explain such extravagance and waste. Submission, however, was not merely advisable; it presented the only prospect of peace. Open resentment was largely suppressed, but it was inevitable that the whites should become hostile to the blacks, and that they should dislike the Republican party for its ruthless imposition of a system which governed them without their consent and which placed them at the mercy of the incompetent and unscrupulous. A system which made a negro the successor of Jefferson Davis in the United States Senate could scarcely fail to throw the majority of southern whites into the ranks of the enemies of the Republican organization.[2]

One step remained to ensure the continuance of negro suffrage–the adoption of a constitutional provision. In 1869 Congress referred to the states the Fifteenth Amendment, which was declared in force a year later. By its terms the United States and the states are forbidden to abridge the right of citizens to vote on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.

While radical reconstruction was being forced to its bitter conclusion, the opponents of the President were maturing plans for his impeachment and exclusion from office. By the terms of the Constitution, the chief executive may be impeached for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Early in the struggle between President Johnson and Congress a few members of the House of Representatives urged an attempt to impeach him. Such extremists as James M. Ashley of Ohio, and Benjamin F. Butler of Massachusetts, believed that he had even been implicated in the plot to assassinate Lincoln. A thorough-going search through his private as well as his public career failed to produce any evidence that could be interpreted as sufficient to meet constitutional demands, and a motion to impeach was voted down in the House by a large majority. So indiscreet a man as the President, however, was likely at some time to furnish a reason for further effort. The occasion came in the removal of the Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton.

Stanton, although of a domineering and brusque personality, had ably administered the War Department under Lincoln and Johnson. During the controversy between the President and Congress, Stanton had remained in the Cabinet but was closely in touch with his chief’s opponents and had even drafted one of the reconstruction acts. Johnson had tolerated the questionable conduct of his Secretary, despite the advice of many of his supporters, until August 5, 1867, when he requested Stanton’s resignation. The latter took refuge behind the Tenure of Office Act, denying the right of the President to remove him, but yielding his office at Johnson’s insistence. This episode had occurred during a recess of Congress and, in accord with the law, the removal of Stanton was reported when it convened in December. The Senate at once refused to concur and Stanton returned to his office. The President now found himself forced, by what he regarded as an unconstitutional law, into the unbearable position of including one of his enemies within his official family, and once more he ordered the Secretary to retire. But meanwhile the House of Representatives had been active and had on February 24, 1868, impeached the President for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The trial was conducted before the Senate, as the Constitution provides, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court acting as the presiding officer. The House chose a board of seven managers to conduct the prosecution, of whom Thaddeus Stevens and Benjamin F. Butler were best known. The President was defended by able counsel, including former Attorney-General Stanbery, Benjamin R. Curtis, who had earlier sat upon the Supreme Court, and William M. Evarts, an eminent lawyer and leader of the bar in New York. The charges, although eleven in number, centered about four accusations: (1) that the dismissal of Secretary Stanton was contrary to the Tenure of Office Act; (2) that the President had declared that part of a certain act of Congress was unconstitutional; (3) that he had attempted to bring Congress into disgrace in his speeches; and (4) that in general he had opposed the execution of several acts of Congress. The President’s counsel asked for forty days in which to prepare their case. They were given ten, although members of the House had been preparing for more than a year to resort to impeachment. The trial lasted from early March to late May.

As the trial wore on, it became increasingly evident that the House had but little substance on which to base an impeachment, and that the force back of it was intense hatred of the President. It was made clear to senators who were inclined to waver towards the side of acquittal that their political careers were at an end if they failed to vote guilty. The general conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church even appointed an hour of prayer that the Senate might be moved to convict. The lawyers for the defense so far outgeneraled the prosecutors that one who reads the records at the present day finds difficulty in thinking of them as more than the account of a pitiful farce. At length on May 16 the Senate was prepared to make its decision. The last charge was voted upon first. It was a very general accusation, drawn up by Stevens, and seemed most likely to secure the necessary two-thirds for conviction. Fifty-four members would vote. Twelve of them were Democrats and were known to be for acquittal. The majority of the Republicans were for conviction. A small group had given no indication of their position, and their votes would be the decisive ones. As the roll was called each senator replied “Guilty” or “Not guilty,” while floor and galleries counted off the vote as the knitting women clicked off the day’s toll of heads during the days when the guillotine made a reign of terror in France. The result was thirty-five votes for conviction and nineteen for acquittal. As thirty-six were necessary, Johnson had escaped. A recess of ten days was taken during which the prosecution sought some shred of evidence which might prove that some one of the nineteen had accepted a bribe for his vote, but to no avail. When the Senate convened again there was no change in the vote on the second and third articles, and the attempt to convict was abandoned.

For the first time in many months Johnson enjoyed a respite from the attacks of his foes. Stanton relinquished his office, and the integrity of the executive power was preserved. The race of the dictator of the House had been run, for Stevens lived less than three months after the trial.

The continuous controversies of the Johnson administration almost completely pressed into the background two diplomatic accomplishments of no little importance. The more dramatic of these related to the French invasion of Mexico. During 1861, naval vessels of England, France and Spain had entered Mexican ports in order to compel the payment of debts said to be due those countries, but England and Spain had soon withdrawn and had left France to proceed alone. French troops thereupon had invaded the country, captured Mexico City and established an empire with Archduke Maximilian of Austria as its head, despite the protests and opposition of the Mexicans under their leader Juarez. The United States had expressed dissent and alarm, meanwhile, but because of the war was in no position to take action.

As soon as civil strife was finished, however, Johnson and Seward took vigorous steps. An army under General Sheridan was sent to the border, and diplomatic pressure was exerted to convince France of the desirability of withdrawal. The occupation of Mexico was, apparently, not popular in France, and in the face of American opposition the French government sought a means of dropping the project. Accordingly the invading forces were withdrawn early in 1867, leaving the hapless Maximilian to the Mexicans, by whom he was subsequently seized and executed.

While the Mexican difficulty was being brought to a successful outcome, the government of Russia offered to sell to the United States her immense Alaskan possessions west and northwest of Canada. Secretary Seward was enthusiastically disposed to accept the offer and a treaty was accordingly drawn up on March 30, 1867, providing for the acquisition of the territory for $7,200,000. The Senate, however, was far less inclined to seize the opportunity. Little was known about Alaska, and the cost seemed almost prohibitive in view of the financial strains caused by the war. Nevertheless the inclination to acquire territory was strong and there was a widespread desire to accede to the wishes of Russia who was understood to have been well-disposed toward the United States during the war. Under the operation of these forces the Senate changed its attitude and ratified the treaty on April 9, 1867. By this act the United States came into possession of an area measuring nearly 600,000 square miles, and stores of fish, furs, timber, coal and precious metals whose size is even yet little understood.

It was not long before it became apparent that radical reconstruction had been founded too little upon the hard facts of social and political conditions in the South, and too much upon benevolent but mistaken theories, and upon prejudices, partisanship and emotion. It was inevitable that there should be an aftermath.

At the close of reconstruction in 1871, the southern negro was a citizen of civil and political importance. As a voter, he was on an equality with the whites; he belonged to the Republican party and his party was a powerful factor in the politics of the South; his position was secured, or at least seemed to be secured, by amendments to the federal Constitution. Legally and constitutionally his position appeared to be impregnable. In the minds of the southern white, however, the amendments vied with military reconstruction in their injustice and unwisdom. To his mind they constituted an attempt to abolish the belief of the white man in the essential inferiority of the black, to make the pyramid of government stand on its apex, and to place the very issues of existence within the power of the congenitally unfit. To the discontent aroused by war were added political and racial antagonism, which blazed at times into fury. The southern whites began to invent methods for overcoming the power of the freedmen in politics and for insuring themselves against possible danger of violence at the hands of the blacks.

The most famous device was the Ku Klux Klan or the Invisible Empire, a somewhat loosely organized secret society which originated in Tennessee during the turmoil immediately after the close of the war. In theory and practice its operations were simple and effective. Its chief officials were the Grand Wizard, the Grand Dragon, the Grand Titan. Local branches were Dens, each headed by a Grand Cyclops. The Den worked usually at night, when the members assembled clad in long white robes and white masks or hoods, discussed cases which needed attention, and then rode forth on horses whose bodies were covered and whose feet were muffled. The exploits of the Klan expanded, in the exaggerated stories common among the negroes, into the most amazing achievements. The members were thought to be able to take themselves to pieces, drink entire pailfuls of water, and devour “fried nigger meat.” Usually the person about to be “visited” received a notice that the dreaded Klan was upon him. He was warned to cease his political activities or perhaps to leave the neighborhood. If the threat proved ineffective, whipping or some worse punishment was likely to follow.

In 1872 Congress unintentionally aided in the process of overcoming negro domination by the passage of the Amnesty Act, which restored to all but a few hundreds of the former Confederates the political privileges which had been taken from them by the Fourteenth Amendment. Under the latter the great majority of former southern leaders had been deprived of the right to hold office. On the restoration of this right such men as Alexander H. Stephens, former Vice-President of the Confederate States, and Wade Hampton, one of the most influential South Carolinians, could again take an active part in politics. With their return, the cause of white supremacy received a powerful impetus.

In taking this step, however, Congress did not intend to allow the legal and constitutional rights of the blacks to be waived without a contest. Reports reached the North concerning the activities of the southern whites–reports which in no way minimized the amount of intimidation and violence involved–and in response to this information Congress passed the enforcement laws of 1870-1871, generally known as the “Force Acts.”[3] These laws laid heavy penalties upon individuals who should prevent citizens from exercising their constitutional political powers–primarily the right to vote. As offences under these acts were within the jurisdiction of the federal courts and as the federal officials manifested an inclination to carry out the law, the number of indictments was considerable. Convictions, however, were infrequent. The famous Ku Klux Act of 1871 amplified the law of 1870 and was aimed at combinations or conspiracies of persons who resorted to intimidation. It authorized the President to suspend the privilege of the writ of _habeas corpus_ and made it his duty to employ armed force to suppress opposition.

Additional sting was given the enforcement laws by provision for the superintendence of federal elections, under specified conditions, by federal officials called “supervisors of election.” The supervisors were given large powers over the registration of voters and the casting and counting of ballots, so as to ensure a fair vote and an honest count. Since here, again, federal troops stood behind the law, it was manifest that the central government would show some degree of determination in its handling of the southern situation. Nevertheless, the result was merely to delay the gradual elimination of the blacks from political activity, not to prevent it. In practice the Republican state governments in the South were continued in the seats of authority only through the presence of the federal soldiery. In one way or another the whites gained the upper hand, so that by 1877 only South Carolina and Louisiana had failed to achieve self-government unhampered by federal force.

In the meantime the enforcement acts were being slowly weakened by the Supreme Court in several decisions bearing upon the Fourteenth Amendment. The significant portion of Section I of the Amendment is as follows:

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.

In several cases involving the enforcement acts, the Court found portions of the laws in conflict with the Constitution and finally, in 1883, the decision in United States _v._ Harris completed their destruction. Here the court met a complaint that a group of white men had taken some negroes away from the officers of the law and ill-treated them. Such conduct seemed to be contrary to that part of the Ku Klux Act which forbade combinations designed to deprive citizens of their legal rights. The Court, however, called attention to the important words, “No _State_ shall make or enforce,” and was of opinion that the constitutional power of Congress extends only to cases where _States_ have acted in such a manner as to deprive citizens of their rights. If _individuals_, on the contrary, conspire to take away these rights, relief must be sought at the hands of the state government. As the great purpose of the Ku Klux Act had been to combat precisely such individual combinations, it appeared that the Court had, at a blow, demolished the law. Not long afterwards the Court declared unconstitutional the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which had been designed to insure equal rights to negroes in hotels, conveyances and theatres. Here again the Court was of opinion that the Fourteenth Amendment grants no power to the United States but forbids certain activities by the states.[4]

Stuffing the ballot box was common in South Carolina and other states. In one election in this state the number of votes cast was almost double the number the names on the polling list. In some places the imposition of a poll tax peacefully eliminated the impecunious freedman. In Mississippi the state legislature laid out the “shoestring” election district, 300 miles long and about 20 miles wide, which included many of the sections where the negroes were most numerous, in order that their votes might have as little effect as possible. By hook or by crook, then, in simple and devious ways, the dangers of negro domination were averted. Nevertheless the provisions of the law for federal supervision of elections remained, becoming a bone of contention during a later administration.

About 1890 there began a new era in the elimination of the negro from politics in the South. The people of that section disliked the methods which they felt the necessity of using, and searched about for a less crude device. Furthermore the rise of a new political movement in some parts of the South in the late eighties and early nineties was making divisions among the Democrats and was encouraging attempts by the two factions to control the negro vote. Suddenly, a relatively small number of negro voters became a powerful and purchasable make-weight. Both sides, perhaps, were a bit disturbed at this development. At any rate, additional impetus was given to the movement for the suppression of the negro. Eventually plans were originated, some of which were clearly constitutional and all of which carried a certain appearance of legality.

The first steps were taken by Mississippi in 1890. The new state constitution of that year required as prerequisite to the voting privilege, the payment of all taxes which were legally demanded of the citizen during the two preceding years–a provision to which no constitutional exception could be taken, and which effectively debarred large numbers of colored voters. Further, it provided that after January 1, 1892, every voter must be able to read any section of the state constitution or be able to give an interpretation of it _when read to him_. As the election officials who would judge the ability of the applicant properly to interpret the constitution would certainly be whites, it was clear that the ignorant black would have scant chance of passing the educational test. Several other states followed in the wake of Mississippi, until in 1898 Louisiana discovered a new barrier through which only whites might make their way to the voting lists. This was the famous “grandfather clause.” In brief, it allowed citizens to vote who had that right before January 1, 1867, together with the descendants of such citizens, regardless of their educational and property qualifications. As no negroes had voted in the state before that date, they were effectively debarred. Under the influence of such pressure, the negro vote promptly dwindled away to negligible proportions. In Louisiana, to cite one case, there were 127,263 registered colored voters in 1896, and 5,354 in 1900. Between these two years the new state constitution had been passed. In 1915 the Supreme Court finally declared a grandfather clause unconstitutional on the ground that its only possible intention was to evade that provision of the Fifteenth Amendment which forbids the states to abridge, on account of color, the rights of citizens of the United States to vote.

The history of the effects of the war and of reconstruction on the political status of the negro has been concisely summarized as falling into three periods. At the close of the war: (1) the negroes were more powerful in politics than their numbers, intelligence and property seemed to justify; (2) the Republican party was a power in the South; and (3) the negroes enjoyed political rights on a legal and constitutional equality with the whites. By 1877 the first of these generalizations was no longer a fact; by 1890 the Republican party had ceased to be of importance in the South; and by the opening of the twentieth century, the negro as a possible voter was not on a legal and constitutional equality with the white.

In the sphere of government the war and reconstruction were of lasting importance. Preeminently it was definitely established that the federal government is supreme over the states. Although the Constitution had seemed to many to establish that supremacy in no uncertain terms, it can not be doubted that only as a result of the war and reconstruction did the theory receive a degree of popular assent that approached unanimity. Temporarily, at least, reconstruction added greatly to the prestige and self-confidence of Congress. During the war the powers of the President had necessarily expanded. The reaction, although hastened by the character and disposition of President Johnson, was inevitable. The depression of the executive elevated the legislature and not until the beginning of the twentieth century did the scales swing back again toward their former position.


General. The best general account of the period 1865-1917 is to be found in the following volumes of _The American Nation: A History_: W.A. Dunning, _Reconstruction Political and Economic, 1865-1877_ (1907); E.E. Sparks, _National Development, 1877-1885_ (1907); D.R. Dewey, _National Problems, 1885-1897_ (1907); J.H. Latané, _America as a World Power, 1897-1907_ (1907); F.A. Ogg, _National Progress, 1907-1917_ (1918). The volumes vary in excellence and interest, but set a high standard, especially in their recognition of the importance of economic facts, and contain excellent bibliographical material. The following single volumes are useful: E.B. Andrews, _United States in Our Own Time, 1870-1903_ (1903); C.A. Beard, _Contemporary American History_ (1914); P.L. Haworth, _Reconstruction and Union, 1865-1912_ (1912); P.L. Haworth, _United States in Our Own Time, 1865-1920_; E.P. Oberholtzer, _History of the United States since the Civil War_ (to be in several volumes, of which one appeared in 1917, covering 1865-1868); F.L. Paxson, _The New Nation_ (1915); H.T. Peck, _Twenty Years of the Republic, 1885-1905_ (1907), readable and especially valuable in its interpretation of the period which it covers; J.F. Rhodes, _History of the United States from Hayes to McKinley, 1877-1896_ (1919), lacks understanding of the period covered. J.S. Bassett, _Short History of the United States_ (1913), has excellent chapters on the years 1865-1912; F.J. Turner in the _Encyclopaedia Britannica_ (11th ed.), article “United States, History 1865-1910,” is brief but inclusive; the later chapters of Max Farrand, _Development of the United States_ (1918), present a new point of view. _The Chronicles of America Series_ (1919 and later), edited by Allen Johnson, contains valuable volumes on especial topics. For party platforms and election statistics consult Edward Stanwood, _A History of the Presidency_ (2 vols., 2nd ed., 1916).

Reconstruction. The most valuable single volume on the reconstruction period is the volume by Dunning already referred to; W.L. Fleming, _Sequel of Appomattox_ (1919), is also excellent; J.F. Rhodes, _History of the United States since the Compromise of 1850_, vols. VI, VII (1906), is the best detailed account; James Schouler, _History of the United States_, vol. VII (1913), presents a new view of President Johnson. Valuable biographies are J.A. Woodburn, _The Life of Thaddeus Stevens_ (1913); G.H. Haynes, _Charles Sumner_ (1909); Horace White, _The Life of Lyman Trumbull_ (1913). On impeachment, D.W. Dewitt, _The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson_ (1903), is best. W.A. Dunning, _Essays on Civil War and Reconstruction_ (ed. 1910), is strong on the constitutional changes. Studies on reconstruction in the several states have been published by W.W. Davis (Florida), (1913); W.L. Fleming (Alabama), (1905); J.W. Garner (Mississippi), (1901); J.G. deR. Hamilton (North Carolina), (1914); C.W. Ramsdell (Texas), (1910); and others. For documentary material, W.L. Fleming, _Documentary History of Reconstruction_ (2 vols., 1906-7), is essential. Edward Channing, A.B. Hart and F.J. Turner, _Guide to the Study and Reading of American History_ (1912), provides full references to a wide variety of works covering 1865-1911. Consult also Appleton’s _Annual Cyclopaedia_, _1861-1902_. On foreign relations J.B. Moore, _Digest of International Law_, 8 vols., (1906).

Periodical literature. The most useful periodicals are:

_American Economic Review_ (1911-); _American Historical Review_ (1895-); _American Political Science Review_ (1907-); _Atlantic Monthly_ (1857-); _Century Magazine_ (1870-); _Harper’s Weekly_ (1857-1916); _Harvard Law Review_; _History Teachers’ Magazine_, continued as _Historical Outlook_ (1909-); _Journal of Political Economy_ (1892-); _Nation_ (1865-); _North American Review_ (1815-); _Political Science Quarterly_ (1886-); _Quarterly Journal of Economics_ (1886-); _Scribner’s Magazine_ (1887-); _Yale Review_ (1892-1911, _new series_, 1912-).

* * * * *

[1] Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States, was held in prison until 1867 and then released. He died in 1889. Suggestions that General Lee, the most prominent military leader, be arrested and tried met with such opposition from General Grant, the Union leader, that the project was dropped. Lee died in 1870.

[2] A number of these states later repudiated their debts.

[3] The threats used to keep the negroes away from the polls are typified in the following, which was published in Mississippi:

“The Terry Terribles will be here Monday to see there is a fair election.”

“The Byram Bulldozers will be here Monday to see there is a fair election.

“The Edwards Dragoons will be here Monday to see there is a fair election.

“Who cares if the McGill men don’t like it?

“The whole State of Mississippi is interested in the election.

“It _shall_ be a Democratic victory.”

[4] In regard to segregation of the races in railroad coaches, the Court decided, 1910, that constitutional rights are not interfered with when separate accommodations are provided, if the accommodations be equally good. Chiles _v._ Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Co., 218 U.S., 71.



Aside from President Lincoln, the most prominent personality on the northern side during the latter part of the Civil War was General Ulysses S. Grant. His successes in the Mississippi Valley in the early days of the war, when success was none too common, his capture of Vicksburg at the turning point of the conflict, and his dogged drive toward Richmond had established his military reputation. When the drive toward Richmond resulted at last in the capture of Lee’s army and its surrender at Appomattox, the victorious North turned with gratitude to Grant and made him a popular idol, while the politicians began to question whether his popularity might not be put to account in the field of politics.

Grant himself had never paid any attention to matters of government. In only one presidential election had he so much as voted for a candidate, and then it was for a Democrat, James Buchanan. In 1860 he was prevented from voting for Senator Stephen A. Douglas and against Abraham Lincoln only by the fact that he had not fulfilled the residence requirement for suffrage in the town where he was living. Nevertheless in his capacity as general of the army his headquarters after the war were in Washington and his duties brought him into contact with the politicians and eventually entangled him in the controversy between the President and Congress. Circumstances at first threw him into close association with Johnson, but at the time of the Stanton episode late in 1867 a misunderstanding arose between them which developed into a question of veracity, and then into open hostility. The opponents of the President took up the General’s case with alacrity and from then on the popular hero was looked upon as the inevitable choice for the next Republican nomination.

The convention of the National Union Republican Party, as it was called at that time, was held in Chicago, May 20, 1868, during the interval between the votes on the eleventh and second charges of the impeachment of President Johnson. General Grant was unanimously nominated for the presidency and Schuyler Colfax, Speaker of the House of Representatives, for the second place on the ticket. The platform portrayed the benefits of radical reconstruction and defended negro suffrage in the South. In the North at that time the black was commonly denied the vote–the Fifteenth Amendment having not yet been ratified–and the convention accordingly declared that the question of suffrage in all the “loyal” states properly belonged in the states themselves. Other planks asserted that the public debt ought to be paid in full, that pensions for the veterans were an obligation and that immigration ought to be encouraged. The administration of President Johnson was denounced and the thirty-five senators who voted for his conviction in the impeachment trial were commended.

The Democrats met at Tammany Hall in New York on July 4. Their platform approved the pension laws, advocated the sale of public land to actual occupants, praised the administration of President Johnson, arraigned the radicals and declared the reconstruction acts “unconstitutional, revolutionary, and void.” If the radical party should win in the election, the Democrats asserted, the result would be “a subjected and conquered people, amid the ruins of liberty and the scattered fragments of the Constitution.” The regulation of the suffrage, one plank declared, had always been in the hands of the individual states. The most prominent place in the platform, however, was given to the question of the public debt. Part of the bonds issued during the war had, by acts of Congress, been made payable in “dollars,” a word which might mean either paper dollars or gold dollars. Paper, however, was much less valuable than gold, times were hard, and many people held the opinion that the debt could properly be paid in paper. Such was the “Ohio idea,” which was made part of the Democratic platform.

The choice of a candidate required twenty-two ballots. Early trials indicated the strength of George H. Pendleton, popularly known as “Gentleman George” and the chief exponent of the “Ohio idea.” Johnson also had support. Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, having failed to obtain the Republican nomination, allowed it to be known that he was willing to become the Democratic candidate. At length, on the twenty-second ballot, a few votes were cast for Governor Horatio Seymour of New York, the chairman of the convention. The move met with enthusiastic approval, despite Seymour’s insistence that he would not be a candidate, and he was unanimously chosen.

Popular vote in presidential elections, 1868-1896]

The developments of the campaign depended largely upon occurrences in the South. Military reconstruction had not been wholly completed in Virginia, Mississippi, Texas and Georgia. The last of these states had once been readmitted to the Union, but had immediately expelled the negro members of its legislature, and was thereupon placed again under military rule. The Ku Klux Klan was meanwhile in general operation throughout the South and its activities, both real and imaginary, received wide advertisement in the North. Public interest, therefore, in the underlying issues of the campaign centered upon the attitude of the candidates toward the southern question. General Grant was understood to be with the radicals and Seymour with the conservatives. The result of the election was the choice of the Republican leader by an apparently large majority. He carried twenty-six out of thirty-four states, with 214 out of 294 electoral votes, but he received a popular majority of only 300,000. Examination of the returns indicated a strong conservative minority in many of the solid Republican states. The strength of the radicals in the South, moreover, was due, in the main, to negro-carpetbag domination, and when these states should become conservative, as they were sure to do, the political parties would be almost evenly divided.[1]

The man who was now entering upon his first experience as the holder of an elective office had risen from obscurity to public favor in the space of a few years. Although a graduate of West Point, with eleven years of military experience afterward, his career before 1861 had been hardly more than a failure. He had left the army in 1854 rather than stand trial on a charge of drunkenness; had grubbed a scanty living out of “Hard Scrabble,” a farm in Missouri; had tried his hand at real estate, acted as clerk in a custom-house and worked in a leather store at $800 a year. Then came the war, and in less than three years Grant had received the title of Lieutenant-General, which only Washington had borne before him, and had become General-in-Chief of all the armies of the United States. Always an uncommunicative man, he kept his own counsel during the interval between his election and his inauguration. He saw few politicians, asked no advice about his cabinet, sought no assistance in preparing his inaugural address and made no suggestions to the leaders of his party concerning legislation that he would like to see passed. His first act, the appointment of his cabinet, caused a gasp of surprise and dismay. Most of the men named were but little known and some of them were not aware that they were being chosen until the list was made public. The Secretary of State, Elihu Washburne, was a close personal friend, and was appointed merely that he might hold the position long enough to enjoy the title and then retire. He was succeeded by Hamilton Fish, of New York, who proved to be a wise choice. The Secretary of the Treasury was A.T. Stewart, a rich merchant of New York, but he had to withdraw on account of a law forbidding any person “interested in carrying on the business of trade or commerce” to hold the office. The Secretary of the Navy, A.E. Borie, was a rich invalid of Philadelphia, who had almost no qualifications for his office and resigned at once. Better appointments were former Governor J.D. Cox, of Ohio, as Secretary of the Interior, and Judge E.R. Hoar, of Massachusetts, as Attorney-General.

When the Congress elected with Grant assembled in 1869 its first act was a measure providing for the payment of the public debt in coin. Part of the Tenure of Office Act was repealed, the President having indicated his opposition to it. On the southern question General Grant had earlier inclined toward moderation, but radical counsels and the logic of events led him to join Congress in the passage of the enforcement act and the Ku Klux Act, both of which have already been mentioned.

It was during this, the first year of Grant’s administration, that there occurred the famous gold conspiracy of 1869. Jay Gould and James Fisk, Jr., two of the most unscrupulous stock gamblers of the time, determined to corner the supply of gold and then run its market price up to a high level, in order to further certain interests which they had recently purchased. The likelihood that the conspirators could carry out the plan depended largely on the Secretary of the Treasury, George S. Boutwell, who was accustomed to sell several millions of dollars’ worth of gold each month. If the sales could be stopped Gould and Fisk might be successful. Accordingly, they got on friendly terms with the President through cultivating the acquaintance of his brother-in-law, were seen publicly with him at the theatre and other places, and subsequently he wrote to the Secretary expressing his opinion that the sales had better stop. Gould apparently was informed of this decision by the brother-in-law, even before the message reached the Secretary, and immediately bought up so much gold as to run the price to an unparalleled figure. This was on “Black Friday,” September 24. The Secretary became alarmed, rumors were abroad that the administration was implicated in the conspiracy, and at noon, after consultation with the President, he decided to place four millions in gold on the market. At once the price dropped, brokers went bankrupt, and Gould and Fisk had to take refuge behind armed guards to save their lives. The President had not been a party to the plans of the speculators, but his blindness to their real purposes and his association with them during the period when their scheme was being perfected made him a target for all manner of accusations.

Further astonishment was caused by the attitude of the President toward two of the three really able men in his cabinet. In June, 1870, he suddenly called for the resignation of Judge Hoar. It appeared that he was seeking votes in the Senate for a treaty in which he was interested and that certain southern members demanded the post of attorney-general for a southern man in return for their support. Secretary Cox’s resignation came soon afterward. He had taken his department out of politics, had furthered the cause of civil service reform and had protected his employees from political party assessments. These acts brought him into collision with the politicians, who had the ear of the President, and Cox had to retire. Both Hoar and Cox were succeeded by mediocre men.

The treaty which caused the removal of Secretary Hoar was one that the President had arranged providing for the annexation of San Domingo. The Senate was opposed to ratification, but General Grant was accustomed to overcoming difficulties and he urged his case with all the power at his command. One result was an unseemly wrangle between the President and Senator Charles Sumner over the latter’s refusal to support ratification. General Grant, in resentment, procured the withdrawal of the Senator’s friend, John Lothrop Motley from England, whither he had been sent as minister, and later the exclusion of Sumner from the chairmanship of the Committee on Foreign Relations, a post in which he had displayed great ability for ten years. Eventually the President had to give way on San Domingo, as the Senate did not agree with him in his estimate of its probable value.

In its conduct of our relations with England, on the other hand, the administration met with success and received popular approval. Ever since the war the people of the North had desired an opportunity to make Great Britain suffer for her attitude during that struggle. Senator Sumner struck a popular chord when he suggested that England should pay heavy damages on the ground that her encouragement of the South had prolonged the war. Specifically, however, the United States demanded reparation for destruction committed by the _Alabama_ and other vessels that had been built in English ports. In 1870 Europe was in a state of apprehension on account of the Franco-Prussian War, and Secretary Fish seized the opportunity to press our claims upon England. The latter, meanwhile, had abated somewhat her earlier attitude of unwillingness to arbitrate, and Fish placed little emphasis on Senator Sumner’s suggestions of a claim for indirect damages. The Treaty of Washington, signed and ratified in May, 1871, provided for the arbitration of the _Alabama_ claims under such rules that a decision favorable to the American side of the case was made exceedingly probable. Each of five governments appointed a representative–the United States, Great Britain, Italy, Switzerland and Brazil. The meeting took place in Geneva and resulted favorably to the American demands. England was declared to have failed to preserve the proper attitude for a neutral during the war and was ordered in 1872 to make compensation in the amount of $15,500,000.

The United States had need of any feeling of national pride that might come as the result of the Geneva award, to offset the shame of domestic revelations, for one of the characteristics of the decade after the war was the wide-spread corruption in political and commercial life. One of the most flagrant examples was the Tweed Ring in New York. The government of that city was in the hands of a band of highwaymen, of whom William M. Tweed, the leader of Tammany Hall, was chief. Through the purchase of votes and the skilful distribution of the proceeds of their control, they managed to keep in power despite a growing suspicion that something was wrong. A favorite method of defrauding the city was to raise an account. One who had a bill against the city for $5,000 would be asked to present one for $55,000. When he did so, he would receive his $5,000 and the remainder would be divided among the members of the Ring. The plasterer, for example, who worked on the County Court House presented bills for nearly $3,000,000 in nine months. The New York _Times_ and the cartoons of Thomas Nast in _Harper’s Weekly_ were the chief agents in arousing the people of the city to their situation. The former obtained and published proofs of the rascality of the Ring, mass meetings were held and an election in November, 1871, overturned Tweed and his associates. Some of them fled from the country, while Tweed himself died in jail.

More important both because of its effect on national politics and because of its influence on railway legislation for many years afterward was the Credit Mobilier scandal. The Credit Mobilier was a construction company composed of a selected group of stockholders of the Union Pacific Railroad, the transcontinental line which was being built between 1865 and 1869. In their capacity of railroad stockholders they awarded themselves as stockholders of the construction company the contract to build and equip a large part of the railway. The terms which they gave themselves were so generous as to insure a handsome profit. Chief among the members of the Credit Mobilier was Oakes Ames, a member of Congress from Massachusetts. Late in 1867 Ames became fearful of railroad legislation that was being introduced in Washington and he therefore decided to take steps to protect the enterprise. He was given 343 shares of Credit Mobilier stock, which he placed among members of Congress where, as he said, they would “do most good.” Rumors concerning the nature of the transaction resulted finally in accusations in the New York _Sun_ during 1872, which involved the names of many prominent politicians. Congressional committees were at once appointed to investigate the charges, and their reports caused genuine sensations. Ames was found guilty of selling stock at lower than face value in order to influence votes in Congress and was censured by the House of Representatives. The Vice-President, Schuyler Colfax, and several others were so entangled in the affair as to lose their reputations and retire from public life for good. Still others such as James A. Garfield were suspected of complicity and were placed for many years on the defensive.

Fear was wide-spread that political life in Washington was riddled with corruption. Corporations which were large and wealthy for that day were already getting a controlling grip on the legislatures of the states, and if the Credit Mobilier scandal were typical, had begun to reach out to Congress. Had the charges been made a little earlier they might have influenced the election of 1872, which turned largely on certain omissions and failings of the administration, and especially of General Grant himself.

There is something intensely pathetic in General Grant as President of the United States–this short, slouchy, taciturn, unostentatious man who was more at ease with men who talked horses than with men who talked government or literature; this President who was unacquainted with either the theory or the practice of politics, who consulted nobody in choosing his cabinet or writing his inaugural address, who had scarcely visited a state capital except to capture it and had been elected to the executive chair in times that were to try men’s souls. An indolent man, he called himself, but the world knew that he was tireless and irresistible on the field when necessity demanded, persistent, imperturbable, simple and direct in his language, and upright in his character. The tragedy of President Grant’s career was his choice of friends and advisors. In Congress he followed the counsels of second-rate men who gave him second-rate advice; outside he associated too frequently with questionable characters who cleverly used him as a mask for schemes that were an insult to his integrity, but which his lack of experience and his utter inability to judge character kept hidden from his view. Honorable himself and loyal to a fault to his friends, he believed in the honesty of men who betrayed him, long after the rest of the world had discovered what they were. He could accept costly gifts from admirers and appoint these same men to offices, without dreaming that their generosity had sprung from any motive except gratitude for his services during the war.[2]

It was inevitable, in view of these facts, that the presidential campaign of 1872 should be essentially an anti-Grant movement, but its particular characteristics had their origin before the General’s first election. In 1865 a constitutional convention in Missouri had deprived southern sympathizers of the right to vote and hold office. A wing of the Republican party, led by Colonel B. Gratz Brown, had begun a counter-movement, intended to remove the restrictions on the southerners, and also to reform other abuses in the state. Colonel Brown had early received the assistance of General Carl Schurz, a man of ability with the temperament of a reformer. The Brown-Schurz faction had quickly increased in numbers, had become known as the Liberal Republican party and had attracted such interest throughout the country that a national conference was called for May, 1872, at Cincinnati. In adopting a conciliatory southern policy, the Liberal Republicans became opposed to the President, who had by this time become thoroughly committed to the radical program. Other critics of the administration, mainly Republicans, became interested in the Liberal revolt–those who deprecated the President’s choice of associates and advisors, the civil service reformers who were aroused by the dismissal of Secretaries Hoar and Cox, and the tariff reformers who had vainly attempted to arouse enthusiasm for their plans.

On account of the varied character of the elements which composed it and the independent spirit of its members, the Cincinnati assembly resembled a mass meeting rather than a well-organized political conference. It numbered among its members, nevertheless, many men of influence and repute. Some of the most powerful newspaper editors of the country, also, were friendly to its purpose, so that it seemed likely to be a decisive factor in the coming campaign. In most respects the platform reflected the anti-Grant character of the convention. It condemned the administration for keeping unworthy men in power, favored the removal of all disabilities imposed on southerners because of the rebellion, objected to interference by the federal government in local affairs–a reference to the use of troops to enforce the radical reconstruction policy–and advocated civil service reform. The convention found difficulty in stating its attitude toward the tariff question. It was deemed necessary to get the support of Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York _Tribune_, the most powerful northern newspaper of Civil War times, but Greeley was an avowed protectionist. The platform, therefore, evaded the issue by referring it to the people in their congressional districts, and to Congress. But the rock on which the movement met shipwreck was the nomination of a candidate. Many able men were available–Charles Francis Adams, who had been minister to England, Senator Lyman Trumbull, B. Gratz Brown and Judge David Davis of the Supreme Court. Any one of them would have made a strong candidate. The convention, however, passed over all of them and nominated Greeley, long known as being against tariff reform, against civil service reform and hostile to the Democrats, whose support must be obtained in order to achieve success. Although a journalist of great influence and capacity, Greeley was an erratic individual, whose appearance and manner were the joy of the cartoonist.

The Republican convention met on June 5, and unanimously re-nominated Grant. The platform recited the achievements of the party since 1861, urged the reform of the civil service, advocated import duties and approved of the enforcement acts and amnesty.

To the Democrats the greatest likelihood of success seemed to lie in the adoption of the Liberal Republican nominee and platform. Such a course, to be sure, would commit them to a candidate who had excoriated their party for years in his newspaper, and to the three war amendments to the Constitution, which the Liberal Republicans had accepted. Yet it promised the South relief from military enforcement of obnoxious laws, and that was worth much. Both Greeley and his platform were accordingly accepted.

The enthusiasm for the Liberal movement which was observable at the opening of the campaign rapidly dwindled as the significance of the nomination became more clear. Greeley was open to attack from too many quarters. The cartoons of Nast in _Harper’s Weekly_, especially, held him up to merciless ridicule. In the end he was defeated by 750,000 votes in a total of six and a half million, a disaster which, together with the death of his wife and the overwork of the campaign resulted in his death shortly after the election. As for the Republicans they elected not only their candidate but also a sufficient majority in Congress to carry out any program that the party might desire.

On March 3, 1873, as Grant’s first term was drawing to a close, Congress passed a measure increasing the salary of public officials from the President to the members of the House of Representatives. The increase for Congressmen was made retroactive, so that each of them would receive $5,000 for the two years just past. To a country whose fears and suspicions had been aroused by the Credit Mobilier scandal, the “salary grab” and the “back pay steal” were fresh indications that corruption was entrenched in Washington. Senators and Representatives began at once to hear from their constituencies. Many of them returned the increase to the treasury and when the next session opened, the law was repealed except so far as it applied to the president and the justices of the Supreme Court.

The congressional elections of 1874 indicated the extent of the popular distrust of the administration. In New York, where Samuel J. Tilden was chosen governor, and in such Republican strongholds as Massachusetts and Pennsylvania the Democrats were successful. In the House of Representatives the Republican two-thirds majority was wiped out and the Democrats given complete control. Even the redoubtable Benjamin F. Butler lost his seat.

Further apprehensions were aroused by rumors concerning the operations of a “Whiskey Ring.” For some years it had been suspected that a ring of revenue officials with accomplices in Washington were in collusion with the distillers to defraud the government of the lawful tax on whiskey. Part of the illegal gains were said to have gone into the campaign fund for Grant’s re-election, although he was ignorant of the source of the revenue. Benjamin H. Bristow, who became Secretary of the Treasury in 1874, began the attempt to stop the frauds and capture the guilty parties. This was no simple task, because information of impending action was surreptitiously sent out by officials in Washington. Finally Secretary Bristow got the information which he sought, and then moved to capture the criminals. One of the most prominent members of the Ring was an internal revenue official in St. Louis who, it was recollected, had entertained President Grant, had presented him with a pair of horses and a wagon, and had given the General’s private secretary a diamond shirt-stud valued at $2,400. Public opinion was yet further shocked, however, when the trail of indictments led to the President’s private secretary, General Babcock. On first receiving the news of Bristow’s discoveries, Grant had written “Let no guilty man escape”; but later he became secretly and then openly hostile to the investigation. During the trial of Babcock, the President asked to be a witness in his behalf. A verdict of acquittal was given, but afterwards the two men had a private conference, and when “Grant came out, his face was set in silence.” Babcock never returned to the White House as Secretary, but was given the post of Superintendent of Public Buildings and Grounds. Several of the members of the Ring were imprisoned but were later pardoned by the President. In the meanwhile Grant seems to have been brought to believe that Bristow was persecuting Babcock with a view to getting the favor of the reform element in the party and eventually the presidential nomination. Relations between the two became strained and Bristow resigned.

The last year of Grant’s second administration was blackened by the case of W.W. Belknap, who was then Secretary of War. Investigation by a House committee uncovered the fact that since 1870 an employee in the Indian service had paid $12,000 and later $6,000 a year for the privilege of retaining his office. The money had been paid at first to Mrs. Belknap, who had made the arrangement, and after her death to the Secretary himself. The House unanimously voted to impeach him, but on the day when the vote was taken he resigned and the President accepted the resignation. Only the fact that he was out of office prevented the Senate from declaring him guilty, and critics of the administration noted that the President had saved another friend from deserved punishment.

It would be easy to over-estimate the responsibility of General Grant for the political corruption of his administrations. For the most part the wrong-doing of the time began before his first election. Democrats as well as Republicans participated in many of the scandals. Politicians in the cities, the states and the nation seemed to be determined to have a share in the enormous wealth that was being created in America, and they got it by means that varied from the merely unethical and indiscreet, to the openly corrupt. As for the President, his own defence, given in his last message to Congress, may be taken as the best one: “Failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent.”

Under the circumstances, however, it was natural that the presidential campaign of 1876 should turn upon the failings of the administration. Popular interest in the southern issue was on the wane. Early in the election year, nevertheless, James G. Blaine, Republican leader in the House, made a forceful attack on Jefferson Davis, as the wilful author of the “gigantic murders and crimes at Andersonville,” the southern prison in which federal captives had been held. Instantly the sectional hatred flared up and Blaine, already a well-known leader, became a prominent candidate for the nomination. Republican reformers generally favored Bristow. A third-term boom for Grant was effectively crushed by an adverse resolution in the House.

The Republican nominating convention met on June 14. The virtues of Blaine were set forth in a famous speech by Robert G. Ingersoll in which he referred to the attack on Davis: “Like an armed warrior, like a plumed knight James G. Blaine marched down the halls of the American Congress and threw his shining lance full and fair against the brazen forehead of every traitor to his country.” The “plumed knight,” however, was open to attack concerning a scandal during the Grant regime, and the convention turned to Governor Rutherford B. Hayes, of Ohio, a man of quiet ability who had been unconnected with Washington politics, was relatively unknown and, therefore, not handicapped by the antagonisms of previous opponents. The platform emphasized the services of the party during the war, touched lightly on the events of the preceding eight years, advocated payment of the public debt, and favored import duties and the reform of the civil service.

The Democrats met on June 27. There was little opposition to the nomination of Governor Samuel J. Tilden, of New York, a wealthy lawyer who had made a record as a reformer in opposition to “Boss” Tweed and a corrupt canal ring. The platform was distinctly a reform document. It demanded reform in the governments of states and nation, in the currency system, the tariff, the scale of public expense, and the civil service. An eloquent paragraph exhibited those corruptions of the administration which had caused such general dismay.

There was little in the campaign that was distinctive, and on November 8, the morning after the election, it seemed clear that Tilden had been successful. He had carried the doubtful states of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Indiana. When the figures were all gathered, it was found that his popular vote exceeded that of his rival by more than 250,000. But there were disputes in three states, Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina. Hayes would be elected only if the electoral votes of all these states could be obtained for him. If, however, Tilden received even one electoral vote from any of the states, the victory would be his. Hayes was conceded 166 electoral votes; Tilden 184. Nineteen were in dispute. The Republican leaders at once claimed the nineteen disputed votes, and asserted that their candidate was elected. The Democrats had no doubt of the victory of Tilden.[3] The capitals of the three doubtful states now became the centers of observation. Troops had long been stationed in South Carolina and Louisiana, and others were promptly sent to Florida. Prominent politicians from both parties also flocked thither, in order to uphold the party interests.

In South Carolina it became evident that a majority of the popular vote was for Hayes, although both the Democratic and the Republican electors sent in returns to Washington. In Florida there was a board of canvassers which had power to exclude false or fraudulent votes. It was composed of two Republicans and one Democrat. When all ballots had been sent in, the Democrats claimed a majority of ninety; the Republicans a majority of forty-five. The board went over the returns and by a partisan vote threw out enough to make the Republican majority 924. Republican electoral votes were thereupon sent to Washington, but so also were Democratic votes. The situation in Louisiana was still more complicated. Political corruption and intimidation had been commonplaces in that state. On the face of the returns, Tilden’s electors had received majorities varying from 6,000 to 9,000. As in Florida there was a board of canvassers which was here composed of four Republicans, three of whom were men of low character. The vote of the state was offered to the Democrats, once for $1,000,000 and once for $200,000, but the offer was not taken. The board then threw out enough ballots to choose all the Hayes electors. As in the other cases, Democratic electors also sent ballots to Washington.

There was no federal agency with power to determine which sets of electors were to be counted, and the fact that the federal Senate was Republican and the House Democratic seemed to preclude the possibility of legislation on the subject. No such critical situation had ever resulted from an election, and a means of settlement must quickly be discovered, for only three months would elapse after the electoral votes were sent to Washington, before the term of General Grant would expire. The means devised was the Electoral Commission. This body was to be composed of five senators, five representatives, and five justices of the Supreme Court. The Senate and the House were each to choose their five members, and four members of the Court were designated by the Act which established the Commission, with power to choose a fifth. It was understood that seven would be Republicans, seven Democrats and that the fifteenth member would be Justice David Davis, an Independent, who would be selected by his four colleagues. On him in all probability, the burden of the decision would fall. On the day when the Senate agreed to the plan, however, the Democrats and Independents in the Illinois legislature chose Justice Davis as United States Senator and under these circumstances he refused to serve on the Commission. It was too late to withdraw, and since all the remaining justices from whom a commissioner must be chosen were Republicans, the Democrats were compelled to accept a body on which they were outnumbered eight to seven.

The Electoral Commission sat all through the month of February, 1877. Its decisions were uniformly in favor of Hayes electors by a vote of eight to seven, always along party lines, and on March 2, it was formally announced that Hayes had been elected. The disappointment of the Democrats was bitter and lasting, for their candidate had received over a quarter of a million popular votes more than his opponent, and yet had been declared defeated. For a time there was some fear of civil war. Tilden, however, accepted the decision of the Commission in good faith, and forbade his friends and his party to resist. Moreover, close friends of the Republican candidate assured southern Democratic politicians that Hayes if elected would adopt a conciliatory policy toward the South, and would allow the southern states to govern themselves unhampered by federal interference. Peaceful counsels prevailed, therefore, and the closing days of President Grant’s administration were undisturbed by threats of strife.

The question whether Hayes was fairly elected is a fascinating one. There is no doubt that there was fraud and intimidation on both sides, in the disputed states. In Louisiana, for example, the Democrats prevented many negroes from voting by outrageous intimidation, while the Republicans had many negroes fraudulently registered. Little is known, also, of the activities of the “visiting statesmen,” as those politicians were called who went to the South to care for their party interests. It is known that they were well provided with money and that the boards of canvassers contained many unscrupulous men. Nor is it likely that politicians who lived in the days of the Credit Mobilier and the Whiskey King would falter at a bargain which would affect the election of a president. Republicans looked upon the Democrats as being so wicked that they were justified in “fighting the devil with fire.” Democrats looked upon the election as so clearly theirs that no objection ought to be made to their taking what belonged to them. It seems certain, however, that Hayes had no hand in any bargains made by his supporters. As for Tilden, his wealth was such that he could have purchased votes if he had desired to do so, and the fact that all the votes went to his rival indicates that he did not yield to the temptation. Moreover, one of his closest associates, Henry Watterson, the journalist, tells of one occasion when the presidency was offered to Tilden and refused by him. Perhaps a definitive statement of the rights and wrongs of this famous election will never be made; for one after another the men most intimately associated with it have died leaving some account of their activities, but none of them has told much more than was already known.


Dunning, Rhodes and Schouler, together with most of the works referred to at the close of Chapter 1, continue to be useful. L.A. Coolidge, _Ulysses S. Grant_ (1917), is not as partisan as most of the biographies of the time and is valuable despite a lack of a thorough understanding of the period. The following are valuable for especial topics: H. Adams, _Historical Essays_ (1891); C.F. Adams, Jr., and H. Adams, _Chapters of Erie_ (1886), (gold conspiracy); C.F. Adams, Jr., _Charles Francis Adams_ (Treaty of Washington); C.F. Adams, Jr., “The Treaty of Washington” in _Lee at Appomattox, and Other Papers_ (1902); James Bryce, _American Commonwealth_ (vol. II, various editions since 1888, contains famous chapter on the Tammany Tweed ring); A.B. Paine, _Thomas Nast, His Period and His Pictures_ (1904), (Tweed ring). P.L. Haworth, _Hayes-Tilden Disputed Presidential Election of 1876_ (1906), is a thorough study; on this election, see also John Bigelow, _The Life of S.J. Tilden_ (2 vols., 1895), and C.R. Williams, _Life of Rutherford B. Hayes_ (2 vols., 1914).

* * * * *

[1] The closing months of Johnson’s administration found him almost in a state of isolation. The incoming President refused to have any social relations with him, or even to ride with him from the White House to the Capitol on inauguration day. After the installation of his successor, Johnson returned to Tennessee but was later chosen to the Senate, where he served but a short time before his death.

[2] In 1884, a year before his death, the dishonesty of a trusted friend left him bankrupt, while a painful and malignant disease began slowly to eat away his life. Nevertheless, with characteristic courage he set himself to the task of dictating his _Memoirs_, or more often penciling sentences when he was unable to speak, in order that he might repay his debts with the proceeds.

[3] There was also a technical question concerning one elector in Oregon, which was easily settled.



With the close of Grant’s administration, the main immediate problems connected with political reconstruction came to an end. During the war, however, important economic and social developments had been taking place throughout the United States which were destined to take on greater and greater significance. The reconstruction problem looked backward to the war; the new developments looked forward to a new America. Reconstruction affected fewer and fewer people as time went on; the later changes ultimately transformed the daily life of every individual in the nation. Not only did they determine the means by which he earned his livelihood, but the comforts which he enjoyed, the conditions of rural or urban life which surrounded him, the ease with which he visited other portions of the country or obtained information concerning them, the number and variety of the foreign products that could be brought to him, the political problems upon which he thought and voted, and the attitude of the government toward his class in society. Most of these changes were distinguishable during the twenty-five years following the war and could be stated in brief and definite terms.

From the standpoint of population, the growth of the country before 1890, although not so rapid as it had been before the war, was both constant and important. Between 1870 and 1890 the numbers of people increased from nearly thirty-nine millions to nearly sixty-three millions, the rate each decade being not far from twenty-five per cent. Six states added more than a million each to their population–New York and Pennsylvania in the Northeast; Ohio, Illinois and Kansas in the Middle West; and Texas in the South. No fewer than seventeen others expanded by half a million or more–ten of the seventeen being in the valley drained by the Mississippi River system.

Detailed study of particular sections of the country discloses a continuous shifting of population which indicates changes in the economic life of the people. In northern New England, the numbers increased slowly. Both Maine and New Hampshire lost from 1860 to 1870; nearly half of Maine’s counties and nearly two-thirds of Vermont’s lost population between 1880 and 1890; the people were abandoning the rural districts to flock to the cities or migrate to the West. Shipbuilding fell off in Maine; the dairy interests languished in Vermont, less wheat was being planted and the farmers, no longer growing wool, were selling their flocks. Most of the growth was to be found in the industrial counties. The traditional New England thrift, however, was not lost with the migration of the people, for savings bank deposits were increasing, and the state of Vermont was free from debt in 1880, and all its counties in 1890. The South, between 1870 and 1890, increased in numbers a little less rapidly than the country as a whole. On the Atlantic Coast the greatest relative expansion was in Florida; in the western South, in Texas. The increase was almost wholly native, as immigration did not flow into that section.

The great expansion of the Middle West, from Ohio to Kansas, was based upon the public land policy of the federal government. Substantially all this region had once been in the possession of the United States, which had early adopted the system of laying out townships six miles on a side, with subdivisions one mile square, (containing 640 acres), called sections. An important feature of the policy had been the encouragement of education and of transportation through the gift of large grants of the public land. Moreover, settlement had been stimulated by the disposal of land to purchasers at extremely liberal figures. In 1862 the famous Homestead Act had inaugurated a still more generous policy. Under this law the citizen might settle upon a quarter-section and receive a title after five years of actual occupation, with no charge other than a slight fee. Millions of acres were taken up in this way both by natives and by immigrants. 1,300,000 people poured into Illinois between 1870 and 1890; over 1,000,000 into Kansas, and nearly that number into Nebraska; in the Dakotas a young man of college age in 1890 might have remembered almost the entire significant portion of the history of his state and have been one of the oldest inhabitants. The frontier of settlement advanced from the western edge of Missouri into mid-Kansas, and almost met the growing population of the Far West, whose economic possibilities had already attracted attention.

The discovery of gold-dust in a mill-race in California had drawn the “Forty-niners” to

… lands of gold
That lay toward the sun.

For a few years fabulous sums of the precious metal had been extracted from the ground by the hordes of treasure-seekers who had come from all over the world by boat, pack-animal or “prairie schooner,” around Cape Horn, across the Isthmus of Panama or over the western mountains. When the yield of the mines had slackened, some of the population had filtered off to newer fields, but more had settled down to exploit the agricultural and lumber resources of California. In Nevada a rich vein of silver called the “Comstock Lode” had been discovered; in 1873 a group operating the “Virginia Consolidated” mine struck the great “bonanza,” and the output reached unheard of proportions. The success of the mines, however, was essential to Nevada, which had few other resources to develop, and when the yield slowed down the population growth of the state noticeably slackened. In Colorado during the late fifties some prospectors had struck gold, and another rush had made “Pike’s Peak or Bust” its slogan. Some had returned, “Busted by Thunder,” but others had better fortune, discovered gold, silver or lead, and helped lay the foundations of Denver and Leadville. In Idaho and Montana, in Wyoming and South Dakota and other states, prospectors found gold, silver, copper and lead, and thus attracted much of the population that later settled down to occupations which were less feverish and more reliable than mining. In general, the advance of population into the Middle West was more or less regular, as wave on wave made its way into the Mississippi Basin; in the Far West, however, population extended in long arms up the fertile valleys of Washington, Oregon and California, or was found in scattered islands where mineral wealth had been discovered in the Rocky Mountain region.

From the standpoint of absolute growth, the expansion of most of the far western states was not imposing, but the relative increase was suggestive of the future. Colorado nearly quadrupled in a decade, (1870-1880), and Washington equalled the record in the following ten years. California grew faster from 1870 to 1890 than it had done in the gold days, indicating that its development was based on something more lasting than a fickle vein of ore. Meanwhile politicians were fanning the desire of the growing territories to become states, and in 1889 Montana and Washington were admitted, and in the following year Idaho and Wyoming. Of these, Washington alone had a population equivalent to the federal ratio for representation in the House.[1]

Utah was kept outside for a few years longer, until the Mormon Church gave satisfactory indication that anti-polygamy laws were being enforced.

The migration westward, which has been a constant factor in American development since early times, continued unabated after the Civil War; indeed the restless spirit aroused by the four years of conflict undoubtedly tended to increase this steady shift toward the West. By 1890 approximately a fifth of the native Americans were to be found in states other than those in which they had been born. 95,000 natives of Maine, for example, were to be found in Massachusetts; 17,000 were in California; and considerable numbers in every state between the two. The North Carolinians were equally well distributed. 43,000 were in South Carolina, 18,000 in Texas, and 5,500 in Washington. Every state had contributed to populate every other, although in general the migration tended to take place on east and west lines, and predominantly westward.

Within the westward-moving tide of population were swirling eddies–cities–which tended to attract to themselves larger and larger proportions of the surrounding people. In 1870 two men in every ten lived in cities whose population was 8,000 or more; by 1890 another man in every ten had forsaken rural life. Large cities like Boston and New York sucked in surrounding districts, and so constituted metropolitan centers with problems new to American life. Such cities as Birmingham, Kansas City, and Seattle were just appearing in 1880, but their growth was very rapid; Los Angeles increased ten fold and Minneapolis thirteen, between 1870 and 1890; Denver, having received ten newcomers between 1860 and 1870, added 102,000 in the following twenty years. In the country as a whole the concentration in cities was most marked in the area north of the Potomac and Ohio rivers and east of the Mississippi; the South remained rural, as before the war. With the growth of urban population came questions of lighting and water supply, street railway transportation and municipal government, industry, education, health and morals.[2]

Immigration, another constant factor in American development, underwent important changes during the twenty-five years from 1865 to 1890. Greater in prosperous years and smaller during years of depression, the inward tide reached its climax in 1882, when 789,000 aliens reached the new world. That year, in several respects, was a turning point in the history of immigration into the United States. It was in this year that the Chinese were excluded; that immigration from Italy, Austria-Hungary, and Russia became of sufficient size to be impressive; and that the first inclusive federal immigration act was passed. The immigration law of 1882 defined, in general, the policy which the nation has pursued ever since. It placed a tax of fifty cents on all incomers to be paid by the ship companies; it forbade the landing of objectionable persons, such as convicts and lunatics; and it placed on the owners of vessels the expense of returning immigrants not permitted to land. All these provisions were amended or developed in later laws, like that of 1885 forbidding persons or corporations to prepay the transportation of laborers or to encourage immigration under contract to perform work. The greater part of the foreign population settled in the manufacturing and urban North. Put into simplest terms, the census of 1890 showed that of every hundred aliens who had come to the United States between 1870 and 1890, thirty-seven were to be found in the states from Maine to Pennsylvania, four from Delaware to Texas, forty-seven from Ohio to Kansas and twelve in the Far West (for the most part Chinese).

Of the great economic interests of the United States, the most widespread was agriculture. In the Northeast, to be sure, the amount of improved farm land had been growing steadily less since 1850 and the people had been turning their energies into other activities. In the South, on the other hand, agriculture formed the main economic resource and the twenty-five years following the war were, for the most part, consumed in recovering from that struggle. Although conditions varied from place to place, the situation in many portions of the South was little short of pitiable. Not only were factories, public buildings and railroads, houses and barns, tools and seeds destroyed, capital and credit gone, mining at a standstill and banks ruined, but bands of thieves infested many districts, federal officers were frequently dishonest and defrauded the people, and the entire labor system was wiped out at a stroke. The negroes had not been ideal workmen as slaves; now, as freedmen, they found difficulty in adjusting themselves to the economic obligations of their new status, and evinced a tendency to rove about restlessly, instead of settling down to the stern task of helping to rebuild the shattered South.

It was manifest that the first problem was to revive the agricultural activities of the old days, and that the main resource must be cotton, the demand for which in the markets of the North and of Europe was such as to make it the best “money crop.” A labor system was introduced known as share-farming or cropping. Under this system the plantation owner who had more property than he could cultivate under the new conditions let parts of his land to tenants, supplying them with buildings, tools, seed and perhaps credit at the village store for the supplies necessary for the year. The tenant, who had neither money nor credit with which to buy land, furnished the labor, and at the harvest each received a specified share of the product, commonly a half. The system had its disadvantages; it kept the farmer always in debt, and since the only valuable security which the plantation owner had was the crop–the land being almost unsalable–he insisted on the cultivation of cotton, which was a safe crop, and avoided experimentation and diversification. On the other hand, the system enabled the land owner to take advantage of the labor supply and to supervise the untutored negro,–and it kept the South alive. In addition to the large plantations, cultivated by several tenant farmers, the number of small farms tilled by independent owners or renters increased. Due to this tendency and to the opening of many small holdings in the Southwest, the size of the average farm diminished, so that the small farmer began to replace the plantation owner as the typical southerner.

Owing to the insistence of land owners upon cotton culture, the South first caught up with its _ante-bellum_ production in the cultivation of this staple, for shortly before 1880 the crop exceeded that of 1860. The production of tobacco, the second great southern crop, sharply shifted after the war from the Atlantic Coast states, except North Carolina, to the Mississippi region, especially to Kentucky. Maryland, indeed, never again produced much more than half as great a crop as she did in 1860, while Virginia did not equal her former record until the opening of the twentieth century, although the South as a whole recovered in the late eighties. Rice culture, likewise, did not recover readily for South Carolina alone produced almost as much in 1860 as the entire South in 1890, and not until the development of production in Louisiana after 1890 did the crop assume its former importance. The production of sugar in Louisiana in 1890 was but little greater than it had been in 1860, and in the production of cereals the South did not keep pace with the upper Mississippi Valley before 1890. On the other hand the rapid growth of Texas was one of the outstanding features of southern development during the period, for that state improved an amount of farm land between 1870 and 1890, roughly equivalent to the combined areas of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts. There was observable, moreover, a certain hopefulness, a certain resiliency of purpose, a pride in the achievements of the past and in the possibilities of the future. In these respects the South was a new South by 1890.

Greater than the South as a food-producing area, was the belt of states from Ohio and Michigan to Kansas and the Dakotas:

Where there’s more of reaping and less of sowing, That’s where the West begins.

The increased occupation of the public lands, the growth of population, improvements in transportation and the greater use of agricultural machinery, which could be employed to advantage on the large and relatively level farms, led to developments that were destined to have an important effect on the history of the nation. Agricultural machinery, such as the reaper, had been known long before the war, but the reduction of the labor supply from 1861 to 1865 had compelled farmers to replace men with machines. A reaper that merely cut the grain and tossed it aside, gave way at last to one which not only cut the grain, but gathered it into sheaves and bound the sheaves with twine. So great was the effect of the harvester upon western agriculture that William H. Seward declared that it “pushed the frontier westward at the rate of thirty miles a year.”

Due to the facts already mentioned, the number of mid-western farms increased nearly a million from 1870 to 1890, and the acreage in improved farm land grew by an amount equivalent to the combined areas of the British Isles, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark, with a generous margin to spare. The production of corn, wheat, oats and other cereals became so great as to demand an outlet to the East and to the markets of the world. Elevators for the storage of grain were constructed with a capacity of 300,000 to 1,000,000 bushels, and improvements were made in the methods of loading and unloading the product. Despite the growth of the agricultural interests of the Middle West, however, the farmer did not reach prosperity. For twenty years after 1873 prices fell steadily both in the United States and in other countries of the world, and the agricultural classes found themselves receiving a smaller and smaller return for their products. Unrest grew to distress, and distress to acute depression, while the demands of the farmers for relief frequently determined the trend of mid-western politics.[3]

Relative Prices–1865-1890]

Less general than agriculture, but more characteristic of the period after the war, was the development of manufacturing. The census of 1870 was faulty and inadequate, but it was sufficiently accurate to indicate that the manufacturing region was preeminently that north of the Potomac-Ohio river line and east of the Mississippi. By 1890 it was apparent that the industrial interests were shifting slightly toward the West; nevertheless the leading states were those of southern New England, and New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In these states no