THE ERA OF RECONSTRUCTION by Kenneth M. Stampp

THE ERA OF RECONSTRUCTION

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Based on the author's Commonwealth Fund lectures at the University of London in 1960, this ""brief political history of reconstruction"" by a well-known Civil War authority is a thoughtful and detailed study of the reconstruction era and the distorted legends still clinging to it. The ""central topic"" of the book is its account of post-war Presidential and Congressional plans to restore the Confederate states to their position in the Union, the victory of Congressional ""radicals"" after Lincoln's assassination, and the effect their brief radical rule had on the South. Although admitting the ""shabby aspects"" of reconstruction (""corruption was real and failures obvious and tragedy undeniable""), the author disagrees with Claude Bowers and other historians who have named it ""The Tragic Era,"" and cites other authorities to prove his contention. Northern terms were astonishingly lenient. There were no mass arrests nor long-term imprisonments; not all Northern carpet-baggers and Southern scalawags were corrupt, nor were all Negroes in office incompetent. The great achievement of then, the passing of the 14th and 15th Amendments giving Negroes citizenship, equal protection under the law and the right to vote, was later largely nullified by Southerners who by intimidation reduced the newly freed Negroes to a condition approaching a caste-system and near-slavery. The best part of this carefully documented study is its account of the ""class-conscious plebian,"" Andrew Johnson, and his efforts, which resulted in his impeachment, to force his plans for reconstruction on Congress. A book for students and specialists in the subject, this scholarly volume will be more at home in historical libraries than on bedside reading tables.

Pub Date: March 15th, 1965
Publisher: Knopf