The principles reasons why Reconstruction was a failure in order of importance.
The post Civil War years were a time in which the South had to be recreated or reconstructed. Reconstruction started during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, and was an attempt made by the North to reform the Southern United States. However, radicals felt the Presidential approach to Reconstruction was ineffective and they should resort to methods, which were more drastic. Soon the Presidential Reconstruction changed to Radical Reconstruction in which it became very difficult for a Southern territory to claim statehood. Overall, Reconstruction had wonderful intentions, such as freeing slaves, ending discrimination, and rebuilding society in the South. However, as historians have noticed Southern life had not benefited, and Reconstruction can be considered a terrible failure. Reconstruction was a failure because of Southern Conservative ideas, inequality between races, and poor enforcement of the laws.
Southern Conservative beliefs, inequality, and poor enforcement, in a way combined to prevent any beneficial change or success in the plan of Reconstruction. A conservative politician is generally a politician which does not favor change, and the Southerners were attempting to preserve their old lifestyle. Northerners tried to force a change upon the Southerners by removing the peculiar institution of slavery. Southerners tried to resist these attempts in various ways such as disenfranchising the freedmen by giving slaves minimal economic opportunity and by supporting and creating various organizations such as the white league or the KKK. This lead to a failure in Reconstruction because a main goal of the Reconstruction was to free all former slaves and give the freedmen various new rights. With the disenfranchisement of the freedmen, Reconstruction could not accomplish one of its main goals. Another Conservative idea, which destroyed Reconstruction, was the idea of State versus Federal rights. Southerners held the traditional belief, which was in the Articles of Confederation in which the States should have more power, then the federal government. This belief rivaled that of the Northerners, and this caused the dilemma of which the Southerners attempted to increase State power, and this lead to the ignoring of federal laws. This can be seen when the State governments attempted to pass laws in which freedmen were restricted from voting because of reasons including their illiteracy. Inequality was easily seen throughout the Reconstruction period and was a major flaw to the plan. As long as inequality between races survived, the Southerners would claim superiority over the freedmen, and impede the obtaining the rights the freedmen deserved. A long white Southern strategy of disenfranchisement would occur in which many freedmen would be forced to making minimal wages doing a job similar to one they had as slaves, an example being sharecropping. This meant only politically were slaves free because economically and socially they were still considered greatly inferior. Furthermore, many of the laws passed during the Reconstruction period were greatly ignored in the South or taken advantage of. Such examples would include the Grandfather Clausewas one of many laws, which were adopted in several regions, which prevented freedmen from voting. Furthermore, a large proportion of these slaves were Republican, and it was the Republicans who to some degree were the main supporters of Reconstruction. Another event to happen in which the laws which aided in the Reconstruction were thwarted was the secret organizations such as the Knights of the White Camelia, and the white rose. These organizations were committing crimes against federal laws yet they still existed in great power during this time. Furthermore, they used fear and intimidation to prevent the voting of many freed slaves, ultimately weakening the Republican Party, destroying a Reconstruction idea of black suffrage, and causing Reconstruction to be a failure.