What if the North had been harsher on the South after the American Civil War? (self.HistoricalWhatIf)

{HistoricalWhatIf}

27 ups - 8 downs = 19 votes

What if the North had kept troops stationed in the south for a longer period of time and passed harsher laws? Could the Jim Crow laws have been prevented? Would we have seen such a racist era? How would things have played out differently? This could have happened had there been more pressure from Northerners, and if there had not been an economic depression.

33 comments submitted at 23:57:28 on Dec 17, 2013 by thegingerkid13

  • [-]
  • backgrinder
  • 3 Points
  • 03:21:53, 18 December

You are clearly not familiar with just how harsh the North was after the Civil War. Short of mass killings there isn't much worse they could have done during the ironically named period of "reconstruction".

  • [-]
  • aManinGlass
  • 7 Points
  • 04:57:36, 18 December

Can you give a brief sentence or two detailing what they DID do? Any history book I have ever read goes straight from the end of the civil war to the late 1890's, and the age of monopolies and shit.

I am from Illinois, so that is a possible reason why.

  • [-]
  • backgrinder
  • 4 Points
  • 05:34:15, 18 December

Hard to do in a brief sentence or two, but it ran the gamut from stealing everything that wasn't nailed down (and in many cases burning that which was) to engaging in public humiliation of former confederates for sport to removing any and all protection of law from former confederates, which was as much a recruiting draw for the early KKK as keeping black people from voting. As a couple of quick examples a lot of people hear that the North had a huge advantage over the South because of their manufacturing base. While this is true it didn't mean the South had no factories, just that the North had more (and with most of the war being fought in the South the North's factories were less prone to disruption). In 1859 the largest Steel Mill in the Country was in Alabama, the largest textile mill in Georgia. The buildings were burned and the equipment carried off. In 1870 the price of steel in Birmingham Alabama was set to the Pittsburgh Plus rate: the price of the steel in Pittsburgh, plus shipping.

If you watch Ken Burns documentary on Jazz he discusses the earliest origins of Jazz, and traces them back to Union Occupation. After the North took New Orleans they wanted to make a very clear point to the inhabitants that they were completing upending society so they gave black people free musical instruments and uniforms and paid them to parade around the city playing marching music. The point being made was this is our city now, not yours anymore, and even without the heavy racial subtext it's a pretty blatant message, like Nazi's parading through Paris in WW2.

I don't have time to source this properly, but "reconstruction" devastated the south economically, and not just because slave owners lost money on their plantations. Plantation owners switched to a combination of sharecropping and importing Irish and Italians and did just fine. Anyone who wasn't rich was crushed under the Unions heel though, and per capita incomes in the south didn't get back to antebellum levels for over 100 years. Losing a war that is fought on your land and then living through an occupation of rapacious predators is a pretty bad scene. Heck, I want reparations, now that I think about it.

  • [-]
  • hail_cthulhu
  • 1 Points
  • 23:02:16, 18 December

You want reparations? You do know which side fired the first shot in the Civil War, don't you?

  • [-]
  • backgrinder
  • 1 Points
  • 23:21:30, 18 December

That was a joke, not a particulalry good one. The South did fire first at Fort Sumter, foolishly eliminating any possible chance for a peaceful settlement. The rest of the war, with one exception, was Confederate armies attempting (and usually failing) to defend Southern states from Union invasions. This is relevant to this question because war is very, very hard on the ground where battles actually take place.

  • [-]
  • hail_cthulhu
  • 1 Points
  • 23:03:46, 18 December

Also, you talk about "upending society" like it was a bad thing. Southern society was built on the idea that blacks were subhuman, and that they were better off living as slaves. It was disgusting, immoral, and backwards, even in the mid-19th century. Anything that upends that kind of society could only be good.

  • [-]
  • backgrinder
  • 1 Points
  • 23:26:54, 18 December

They weren't just upending society, reconstruction intentionally replaced an unjust society with another unjust society. The KKK and Jim Crow were both direct responses to this. If you think the KKK and Jim Crow were good things, then by all means, applaud reconstruction. If you think the Union should have enforced Constitutional ideas about freedom equality and justice equally for all people, reconstruction was an atrocity that directly led to a century of injustice. The North has a lot to answer for, they are often portrayed as having taken some moral high ground during the Civil War and it's aftermath, that is unfortunately false in every respect. It's hard to even claim they freed the slaves, because it's difficult to call the serfdom of sharecropping and Jim Crow freedom. The slaves eventually had to free themselves during the Civil Rights movement because the Reconstruction era Union just didn't bother. They used slaves for a series of public punitive measures then abandoned them as soon as it was expedient.

  • [-]
  • hail_cthulhu
  • 2 Points
  • 23:39:32, 18 December

Reconstruction wasn't an atrocity. Slavery was an atrocity. Reconstruction was a failure, but only because it didn't go far enough. The Redeemer governments shouldn't have been allowed to come back, federal troops should have ensured that groups like the KKK were crushed, and the plantation owners who caused that stupid war should have been crushed economically.

Reconstruction did replace an unjust society with another unjust society. But I think that most southern blacks in the 19th century would have preferred Jim Crow to slavery any day.

  • [-]
  • 10lbhammer
  • 1 Points
  • 06:53:13, 18 December

So giving black people uniforms and instruments is equal to burning down factories? Clearly my view of the south is lacking!

  • [-]
  • backgrinder
  • -2 Points
  • 07:04:37, 18 December

I can't even begin to imagine where you pulled that conclusion from. Oh wait, yes I can.

  • [-]
  • crazyeddie123
  • 1 Points
  • 20:58:44, 18 December

Because you included it in a list of atrocities committed by the North. And compared freedmen's marching bands to marching Nazis.

  • [-]
  • backgrinder
  • 2 Points
  • 23:18:38, 18 December

At no point did I use the term atrocity. I was responding to a question about harsh actions taken. Any claim that I stated or implied that giving black people uniforms and instruments is equitable to burning factories is malicious and false. Likewise, I do not believe that black people should not be allowed to be in bands, or the military, or drink from public water fountains (although the last is incredibly unhealthy for humans of any ethnicity). The Union did hire black people, some of whom were recently freed slaves as a punitive measure against the South. Whether you or I agree or disagree with the morality of all black marching bands here is irrelevant, the intent of the Union was to be offensive, and it was taken that way by Southerners of that era.

This is important because the message being sent to former Confederates wasn't just look at the black people, they are now free (very few Union officers particularly cared about that in the 1860's and 1870's). The intent of the Union was two fold. First, they were parading through the streets as a show of force, making it clear they were in control. This is very much like the Nazi's marching through Paris, which was done for the exact same reasons. I made that comparison precisely because it is so apt, and you may not like the Union army being described like that but to the people of the South in 1865 they were a foreign army of occupation.

The second reason is more sinister, the Union was informing former Confederates that they were being shut out of society and government, and that the Union was allying a conquering army with freed slaves against them. This is important because it was the single biggest motivator for recruiting for the KKK. Former Confederates were locked out of the political process and removed from normal protections of rule of law. Crimes against them were not investigated, they had no redress in courts, and secret societies of terrorists were quite popular as a result. Modern sensibilities of freedom and equality are irrelevant here because the Union was not attempting to create freedom or equality for anyone. They were replacing slavery with the earliest forerunner of Jim Crow laws. The main difference between Jim Crow and reconstruction is that during reconstruction the Jim Crow laws applied to former Confederates, afterwards it applied to black people.

Enforcement of inequality by military and police force is a problem no matter what group is being raised up or booted down. The North used black marching bands to publicly enforce a new kind of racist hegemony to replace the old kind of racist hegemony. Jim Crow is a direct result of this, and this is something that should be discussed honestly and intelligently, not with comments that intentionally mis-state someone else's views in order to make petty insults.

  • [-]
  • hail_cthulhu
  • 2 Points
  • 23:00:28, 18 December

They could have been way worse. The leaders of the confederacy were guilty of treason. In most other countries, they would have been executed. The fact that former confederate politicians were allowed to hold office was extremely lenient. Also, the north didn't confiscate land from the plantation owners, which they very well could have. Finally, all of the states remained states, rather than being divided up.

The North could have done much, much worse. It's probably lucky for everyone they didn't.

  • [-]
  • CIV_QUICKCASH
  • 1 Points
  • 04:15:00, 19 December

They weren't very nice either, some parts of the South never even fully recovered until 50 or 60 years ago.

  • [-]
  • Napoleon333
  • 3 Points
  • 04:20:21, 18 December

Mass killings? I don't know if I've ever heard that before.

  • [-]
  • backgrinder
  • 0 Points
  • 04:24:46, 18 December

I said short of mass killings, as in that's about all the North didn't do during occupation.

  • [-]
  • Napoleon333
  • 1 Points
  • 20:49:56, 18 December

Sorry; mis-read that.