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Georgia in the 2nd half of the 19th century


Dahlonega
Dahlonega

Within a few months of the surrender, white Georgians regained their political rights: President Andrew Johnson permitted them to elect delegates to a state constitutional convention. Johnson’s plan of restoration, or Reconstruction, of the Union was to reestablish the state governments and then readmit the states to Congress. The delegates duly repealed the 1861 ordinance of secession and recognized the abolition of slavery. They failed, however, to give blacks the right to vote or to testify against whites in court. In general, the new constitution maintained white supremacy. Constitutions drafted in the other Confederate states were similar. The legislatures of Georgia and the other states also passed black codes, a series of laws severely restricting the liberties of the newly freed blacks.

Partly because of these acts by the Southern states, the radical wing of the Republican Party in Congress wrested control of Reconstruction from President Johnson and imposed the harsher regime called Radical Reconstruction. In March 1867 Congress put all the ex-Confederate states except Tennessee under military rule. Readmission to the Union was made conditional on their adoption of new constitutions acceptable to Congress. They were required to extend the vote and basic civil rights to all men, regardless of race. The Republican Party now gained control in Georgia, based on a coalition of blacks, businessmen, and white small farmers from the northern mountain counties. This coalition in 1868 elected a Republican governor, Rufus B. Bullock, and a legislature that ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment extended citizenship to anyone born in the United States and promised all people the equal protection of the laws. Georgia was readmitted to the Union in 1870.

Republican rule was soon undermined, however, by the violence of a secret terrorist organization, the Ku Klux Klan, which acted as a clandestine arm of the state Democratic Party. In 1868 alone, more than 300 Georgia blacks were murdered or assaulted by white terrorists. It was soon apparent that most white Republicans in Georgia were not strongly committed to equal rights. Several months into the 1868 legislative session, many Republicans joined with the Democrats in expelling black legislators although they had been fairly elected. The following year the legislature failed to ratify the 15th Amendment, which prohibited race from being used as a requirement for voting.

Despite a feeble attempt by the U.S. Army to restore order, the Republican Party in Georgia was finished. When a new legislature took office in 1871, Governor Bullock fled the state to avoid being impeached. Despite charges of corruption against the Republicans, it is clear that Democrats were also involved in dirty dealings; and corruption did not end with the return of Democratic rule. The state was under one-party rule by the Democrats for almost the next 100 years. "Georgia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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