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THE END OF RECONSTRUCTION

Grant won reelection in 1872, yet during his second term, federal and Northern interest in the affairs of the South began to wane. The reasons for this were numerous. By this time in history many of the original Radical Republicans had died or no longer were active in government. There were numerous corruption scandals in the second Grant administration (some historians state that this was the most corrupt administration in American history). A recession in 1873 turned the interests of many Northerners to economic and not political and social issues. As a result, Northern troops were gradually removed from the South, allowing whites in Southern states to regain control of Southern governments.

Many Reconstruction-style reforms made by earlier state legislatures were overturned.

The political event that “officially” ended Reconstruction was the Compromise of 1877. In the presidential election of 1876, Samuel Tilden, governor of New York, was the Democratic party candidate, running against Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. Tilden won the popular vote and was leading in the electoral vote, but he needed the electoral votes of Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, all still occupied by federal troops and under Republican control. Both sides claimed victory in these three states. A special congressional commission was created to resolve this situation. The commission had more Republicans than Democrats on it and was ready to hand the election to Hayes, even though evidence indicated that Tilden had won enough electoral votes to win. When Democrats in Congress stated that they would loudly and publicly protest the Commission’s findings, the Compromise of 1877 was worked out. Hayes was named president; in return, the new president promised to remove all federal troops from the South and to stop the enforcement of much Reconstruction-era legislation concerning the South, As a result, blacks in the South were again reduced to the status of second-class citizens. In addition, Southern hatred of Reconstruction-era Republican policies would make the South solidly Democratic; white Southern support of the Democratic policy would last for nearly 100 years. It should be noted that whites who returned to power in state legislatures in the South in 1878 were called “the redeemers.”

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