Assessing Reconstruction: A Multifaceted Evaluation of Success and Failure

Last Updated: 21 Jun 2023
Pages: 4 Views: 40

Reconstruction was not a failure.  This is because it did bring the south back into the Union, albeit it not enthusiastically or even willingly.  However, the mindset of the southerners is less important than the literal effect of rejoining the nation.  Additionally, Reconstruction began the rebuilding of the south and the restructure of its entire economy.  The economic capabilities of the south today prove that Reconstruction was a success according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics the unemployment rate in the south is currently only .1% higher than the national average and in October 2009, when the national unemployment rate was 10.2%, it was only 9.4% in the south, this not only equals, but betters the rest of the country.  Texas also has the 4th strongest economy of any state in the country.

Reconstruction was an absolute success from a legal and social justice standpoint.  It did, without question, reunite the north and south from a legislative position.  The north even used their position of power to abolish slavery causing the southern states to ratify the 14th amendment which read “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of The United States and of the State wherein they reside.”  The 15th Amendment was also passed during reconstruction, this caused African Americans to be granted suffrage saying that “The right of citizens of The United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

This amendment did not cover women’s suffrage as that dream was not realized until 1920, 4 amendments and 50 years after the 15th amendment.  This is one of the major drawbacks of reconstruction; women’s rights were completely ignored.  Many abolitionists claimed that it was “The Negro’s Hour” to which women and women’s right’s activist responded that it was “The Hour”.  Despite this the sociopolitical tides drastically changed during this time period, not only freeing the slaves, but allowing them to hold office such as Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi.

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Reconstruction was successful in terms of economics as well as social movement.  The south had close to nothing in financial assets at the end of the civil war, the majority of their wealth was held in slaves and disappeared after slavery was outlawed, whatever money they had left was in Confederate dollars which were worth nothing.  To add on to all of this their economic system, based on slavery, was obliterated with slavery and their land was destroyed by total war.  Sarah Hine, a southern living in Savannah, Georgia, went so far to say that they are “bankrupt in men, in money, & in provisions” in a letter titled “We Have No Future”.

This is a good barometer of the sentiment of the south during reconstruction and the fact that the south did indeed have a future is proof of the success of reconstruction.  The efforts of the union to get the south back on its back were clearly necessary, while many of the southern economies rank lower in the country than northern states there are also many that are completely economically sufficient and stable within the same amount of time as the north had, the difference being that the south had to completely restart their economy from absolutely nothing.

One thing that reconstruction was not able to accomplish is to provide a safety net for both freed slaves and former confederates.  Frederick Douglas writes that “the rights they were intended to guarantee are denied and held in contempt” about the 14th and 15th amendments in relation to the south. This takes away from the big picture of reconstruction in regard to social progress, but despite this reconstruction clearly demonstrated a step in the proper direction and set up the groundwork for more progress in the future.  Reconstruction also made it nearly impossible for southern plantation owners to retain their status because they lost nearly all of their financial assets, except for their property, and even that was nearly taken from them.  This just forced these people to adapt a new economic system of sharecropping and other newly necessary things, reconstruction helped to move the economics of the south forward.

In conclusion reconstruction was a success on multiple fronts.  For one, it helped to advance the social standings and rights of African Americans throughout the country.  It also, did a great job of improving the economy considering the circumstances.  At the beginning of reconstruction southerners had essentially nothing and no set economic system, by the end it was more stable and had a system.  Reconstruction also reunited the north and south from a legal standpoint and to some degree a personal standpoint; the north was still willing to help the south even after the attempted secession of the Civil War.  Overall, reconstruction was a positive force that helped the country to recover after the most destructive war on American soil in history.

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Assessing Reconstruction: A Multifaceted Evaluation of Success and Failure. (2023, Jun 21). Retrieved from

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