The Opposition to Reconstruction

From the outset, Reconstruction governments aroused bitter opposition among the majority of white Southerners. Though they disagreed on specific policies, all of Reconstruction's opponents agreed that the South must be ruled by white supremacy.

The reasons for white opposition to Reconstruction were many. To numerous former Confederates, the new governments appeared as living reminders of military defeat. Their ambitious programs of economic development and school construction produced rising taxes and spiraling state debts. In some states, these programs also spawned corruption, in which Democrats as well as Republicans shared, but which served to discredit Republican rule. Many whites deeply resented the absence of the region's former leaders from positions of power, and planters disliked the tendency of local officials to side with former slaves in labor disputes.

The essential reason for the growing opposition to Reconstruction, however, was the fact that most Southern whites could not accept the idea of African Americans voting and holding office, or the egalitarian policies adopted by the new governments. Beginning in 1867, Southern Democrats launched a campaign of vilification against Reconstruction, employing lurid appeals to racial prejudice as well as more measured criticisms of Reconstruction policies.

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