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The Reconstruction of Georgia

The Reconstruction of Georgia

Copyright Date: 1966
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Reconstruction of Georgia
    Book Description:

    In this study of the reconstruction period in Georgia following the Civil War, a British historian provides a dispassionate account of a highly controversial subject. A revisionist reappraisal, Dr. Conway’s study is the first substantial history of the period to be published in fifty years. The sources include considerable material that has become available since the publication of the last major work on the subject in 1915. The author gives close attention to the last days of the Civil War and its aftermath in Georgia, the early attempts at political reconstruction in 1865, the work of the Freedmen’s Bureau, the economic problems involved in reshaping the state’s economy, the development of the state-cropping and crop-lien systems, the imposition of Congressional reconstruction on Georgia under military supervision, the political maneuverings and economic ventures of such prominent figures as Joseph E. Brown, Benjamin Hill, and Hannibal I. Kimball, the efforts of the Ku-Klux Klan to nullify Negro voting rights and re-establish “white supremacy” concepts, and, finally, the investigations by the Democratic party of Republication misgovernment during the administration of Governor Rufus B. Bullock. Dr. Conway, who did the research for the book in Georgia, has made considerable use of primary manuscripts, travelers’ accounts, state and federal reports, and contemporary newspaper material to arrive at an account which judiciously assesses the claims and counter-claims of violently opposed groups which were vitally concerned with the place of the Negro in Southern society after emancipation and with the return of Georgia to the Union.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6198-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-2)
    (pp. 3-20)

    Georgia, deep in the heart of the Confederacy, was fortunate in that apart from a few months between the spring of 1864 and the end of the year, no armed forces fought over her soil. In January 1861, Governor Joseph E. Brown had, as a precautionary measure, taken possession of Fort Pulaski which defended Savannah, then the largest and most important city in the state, with a population of almost fourteen thousand whites and eight thousand colored people.¹ Georgia held on to Fort Pulaski until April 1862 when the garrison of four hundred men was forced to surrender to Federal...

    (pp. 21-39)

    More words, more pages, more books have been written about the South than, probably, any other part of the United States because of the uniqueness and the pathos of this great social laboratory. The fascination with the southern states which had mounted steadily before the Civil War continued undiminished with the end of hostilities. Government observers, newspaper correspondents, and interested travelers descended upon the Confederate states and reported at length on the war’s damage and distress, on the views of Southerners of all sections of society regarding the measures necessary to rebuild the South and to reincorporate it in the...

    (pp. 40-60)

    Georgia was ruled under a scorching travesty of law, alternating with bayonet despotism governed by mob caprice; this era of whimsical yet savage tyranny, known by the abhorrent name of RECONSTRUCTION, must ever remain the ridicule of patriotism and the contempt of statesmanship. It was the spawn of unbridled might. It violated every principle of good government. It sported wantonly with the sacred axiom of civil liberty. Inspired by hate and operated with malice, it abortively retarded for a decade of years the very object it claimed to seek, viz:—a solid and fraternal rehabilitation of a sundered Union and...

    (pp. 61-99)

    The proclamation to free niggers had only reduced prices for niggers. White trash who had never had a thousand dollars or fifteen hundred dollars to pay for a slave could get niggers now for a few dollars a head by giving them an advance against wages. Times change and new ways of getting slaves are cunningly devised.¹

    In Georgia, as in all the Southern states with a heavy Negro population, the question of the position of the colored people after the war was of critical importance. In 1860 Georgia had a population of 591,588 whites (80 per cent of whom...

    (pp. 100-135)

    Political reconstruction with its refinements of constitutional interpretation was hardly meat and drink to the people of Georgia. Political passion undoubtedly ran high in some, but the more immediate needs for the ordinary Georgian were to make a living and to recoup the losses of the war years. The price of food or the state of the crops came more naturally to mind than the position of Georgia in or out of the Union. W. S. Thomson writing to his father from Marietta summed up the situation succinctly: “This is one of the most quiet places in the South. We...

    (pp. 136-161)

    In Washington the early months of 1866 saw the development of the struggle between President Johnson and his Radical Republican opponents, ably led by Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner. Congress refused to accept the idea that the reconstruction of the South should be an executive function, even though Lincoln had moved substantially in this direction. Under Johnson, it seemed to many that the government was to be handed over to ex-Confederates and the President’s lenient policy came increasingly under attack while Congressional demands for a harsher policy to safeguard the gains of the Civil War received mounting support. It was...

    (pp. 162-215)

    Faced with a hostile legislature, the obvious course of action for Governor Bullock was to change its complexion by removing as many as possible of his most violent opponents. This could be done quite constitutionally by examining under the Fourteenth Amendment the eligibility of the legislators elected. Bullock’s case was that some forty members of the House and fifteen to eighteen members of the Senate had been elected even though they could not take the Test Oath.¹ General Meade, who at no time could have been accused of showing much sympathy or liking for Bullock, refused to undertake any consideration...

    (pp. 216-232)

    Reconstruction is and probably will remain a dirty word to most Georgians and white Southerners. For the Negro, too, it is a word unlikely to evoke great enthusiasm because it marked the abandonment of his race to the treacherous use of the long knives of political expediency. These years of much promise and great expectations had subsequently to be paid for in the grim currency of lynchings, discrimination, and segregation. Although Georgia was not called upon to remain in the valley of the shadow of Radical reconstruction for so long as most other Southern states, the hatred and invective which...

    (pp. 233-237)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 238-248)