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Reconstruction

Reconstruction's End

By 1876 only Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana remained under Republican domination. The Republican presidential candidate that year, Rutherford B. Hayes, promised to alleviate conditions in the South, but the feeling there had already led to the formation of the "solid South" in support of his Democratic opponent, Samuel J. Tilden. In those three states the presidential contest was the occasion for a determined effort to throw off Republican rule, and on their electoral votes (and on one disputed electoral vote in Oregon) hung the fate of the famous disputed election of 1876. It is practically certain that at least one of the three gave a majority, and thus the presidency, to Tilden, but two sets of returns were sent in from each of the three states. A specially constituted electoral commission (composed of eight Republicans and seven Democrats) accepted the Republican returns, and Hayes was given the presidency.

Reconstruction officially ended as all federal troops were withdrawn from the South. White rule was restored, and black people were over time deprived of many civil and political rights and their economic position remained depressed. The radicals' hopes for a basic reordering of the social and economic structure of the South, beyond the abolition of slavery, died. The results, instead, were the one-party "solid South" and increased racial bitterness. The nearly complete elimination in the lengthy post-Reconstruction years (late 1870s to early 1950s) of the advances made by African Americans during Reconstruction has led many to argue that it had few ramifications, but others have countered that the ideal of racial equality formed during Reconstruction set an important goal that the country is still striving to reach.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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