“Supported by the Grant administration and fortified by military power, the Radical Republican State machines plunged the Southern commonwealths into an abyss of misgovernment.” So writes author James G. Randall in his 1937 classic “The Civil War and Reconstruction.” Massive debts were foisted upon the Southern States through fraudulent bonds, excessive government salaries and Northern speculators, along with Radical governors terrorizing those citizens who protested. From this abyss arose the Ku Klux Klan.
No Complete Restoration
“To use a modern phrase, government under Radical Republican rule in the South had become a kind of “racket.” A parasitic organization had been grafted to the government itself, so that the agencies of rule and authority were manipulated for private and partisan ends.
Often in the reconstructed States government bore a bogus quality: that which called itself government was an artificial fabrication. Where the chance of plunder was so alluring it was no wonder that rival factions would clash for control of the spoils, nor that outraged citizens, seeking to recover the government for the people, should resort to irregular and abnormal methods. At times, this clash of factions created the demoralizing spectacle of dual or rival governments.
Such, in brief, was the nature of carpetbag rule in the South. The concept which the Radicals sought to disseminate was that the problems of restoration had all been neatly solved, the country saved, and the South “reconstructed” by 1868.
That dignified publication known as the American Annual Cyclopedia began its preface for the year 1868 with the following amazing statement: “This volume of the Annual Cyclopedia . . . presents the complete restoration, as members of the Union, of all the Southern States except three [Virginia, Mississippi, Texas], and the final disappearance of all difficulties between citizens of those States and the Federal Government.”
The fact of the matter was that this “complete restoration” was merely the beginning of the corrupt and abusive era of carpetbag rule by the forcible imposition of Radical governments upon an unwilling and protesting people. Before this imposition took place the Southern States already had satisfactory governments.
Though the Radicals used Negro voting and officeholding for their own ends, Republican governments in the South were not Negro governments. Even where Negroes served, the governments were under white [Radical] control.
That the first phase of the Negro’s experience of freedom after centuries of slavery should occur under the degrading conditions of these carpetbag years was not the fault of the Negro himself, but of the whites who exploited him.”
(The Civil War and Reconstruction, James G. Randall, DC Heath and Company, 1937, excerpts pp. 852-854)