Semester One Topic Summaries: The Founding of America to Reconstruction

These short summaries were developed as supplements to
The American Nation by Mark Carnes.

American Society in the Making

The many different expectations that colonists brought to the New World, the various environments they entered there, and their distance from Europe combined to produce a number of distinct patterns of social development in America. In New Mexico and Florida, Franciscan friars established missions and sought to Christianize and "civilize" the Indians while putting them to work building, mining, and farming. British North America could be divided into three regional societies. The southern colonies, comprising the Chesapeake Bay area, the Carolinas, and Georgia, were predominantly agricultural; land itself turned out to be the major asset of the area and the property owners found that they could realize the most profit by cultivating high-yield cash crops such as tobacco and rice. These crops were also extremely labor intensive, however, and the proprietors turned to indentured servants and then increasingly to African slave labor to work the fields. With such large tracts of land under cultivation, settlements in the South tended to be spread out, and this coupled with the generally high mortality rate and captive labor population of the region translated into social instability. At perhaps the opposite end of the spectrum stood the New England colonies, which, as a result of their settlers' emphasis on families, religious and secular covenants, and strict mores, enjoyed a very stable, cohesive social structure. Like the South, New England’s economy was primarily agricultural, though on a far smaller scale: cash crops were not an option. But with its many towns and educated populace, New England also supported merchants, educational institutions, and some artisans. The middle colonies—New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania—were home to the most diversified colonial economies; farmers, merchants, and artisans were all well represented. These colonies were also more ethnically and religiously diverse than their neighbors to the north and south, as well as more politically sophisticated. Whereas in the southern colonies settlers tended to defer to their appointed leaders or the landed gentry and New England’s elections generally granted power to the wealthy and socially prominent, the middle colonies, where most males could vote, not so readily ceded power in their representative assemblies to the rich or favored; in fact, the John Peter Zenger libel trial in Pennsylvania illustrates their unique political culture.
    
America in the British Empire

Although the relationship was intended to be mutually beneficial, England and its American colonies increasingly seemed to work at cross purposes as time progressed. The colonies were founded by a number of disparate groups independent of one another, and that is how they regarded themselves and were viewed in England, but even by the middle of the seventeenth century Parliament attempted to impose a mercantilistic order with various navigation acts and the 1696 placement of the colonies under the jurisdiction of the Board of Trade. Meanwhile, a more unified American character and identity was emerging in the colonies; one of the early examples of this is the Great Awakening of the early eighteenth century, which despite often splitting Americans along class lines, was a unique, collective American experience. Enlightenment thought was also making headway in America—not only did the era’s political thought influence Americans, but its followers’ scientific inquiry into the colonies' natural environment fostered a developing sense of America as a place profoundly different from Europe. In this whole process, the colonies were not necessarily growing apart from England, only gaining an identity as British subjects in a new land—growing apart came as a result of colonists' participation in the American theaters of England's wars with the French and Spanish, the final one being the French and Indian War, fought mostly on American soil. The colonists absorbed heavy losses and emerged from the war deeply in debt; a wartime economic boom quickly faded into depression, coincidentally at the moment that Parliament decided that the colonies should contribute more toward their own administrative and defense costs. The back and forth over Parliament's attempts to exact this due and assert its power—the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, the Declaratory Act, the Townshend Duties—and actions such as prohibiting settlement beyond the Appalachians and the Quartering Act convinced colonists that Parliament wanted to deprive them of their rights as English subjects. Tensions came to a head with the Gaspee incident, the Tea Act (and the subsequent Boston Tea Party), and Coercive Acts leading to the convocation of the First Continental Congress, in 1774, and revolution.

        
The American Revolution

The actions of the First Continental Congress moved the British to use force to reassert control over the colonies; in April 1775 British troops and colonial irregulars in engaged in the first battles of what would turn out to be the American Revolution. The Second Continental Congress, meeting in May 1776 and somewhat more radical than its predecessor, organized colonial forces into a Continental Army with George Washington at its lead, made one last appeal to George III, and pleaded their case in the "Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms." Most colonists, for various reasons, were still chary of severing ties to Britain, but the feelings of many changed when the British elected to use Hessian mercenaries to fight the war and upon reading Thomas Paine's Common Sense, which argued for complete independence. By July the Second Continental Congress had drafted the Declaration of Independence describing the theory behind the American revolt and enumerating American grievances against George III. In the war, although Britain had superior resources of manpower, materials, and industrial capacity as well as the advantages of a strong centralized government, the most powerful navy in the world, and an experienced and well-trained army, its war effort was poorly directed and only halfheartedly supported at home. Despite fighting on familiar terrain, the Americans' inexperience showed in early defeats, which did not end disastrously only because the British inexplicably did not pursue them. But as the war progressed and fighting moved south (where the British thought that they would find more Loyalist support), Washington pulled his army together and with considerable help from the French finally wrested an English surrender at Yorktown. The Peace of Paris ending the war was generous for the United States, but the new nation nevertheless faced the task of forming a national government and other institutions, complicated by the sovereignty enjoyed by the states under the Articles of Confederation. The states also had to create governments and formulate constitutions, most of which, in their structures and distributions of power, would reflect the concerns colonists developed while under British rule. Socially, the war accelerated the growth of a national spirit, as it linked the colonies in a common cause and then in a nation and also gave the Americans heroes, most notably George Washington. National spirit was also enhanced by the Great Land Ordinances of 1785 and 1787, which opened the Ohio Valley to settlers, and a national culture began to emerge in textbooks, religion, and in the arts.

The Federalist Era: Nationalism...

In the wake of the Revolution, the Unites States' government, as organized under the Articles of Confederation, found itself unable to effectively address serious challenges: interstate quarrels, foreign policy and trade conflicts with Spain and Britain, and severe economic dislocations. Under the Articles, the states and federal government had unsuccessfully tried, often in conflict with one another, to pay their Revolutionary War debts, establish credit, and control new territory in the West. To deal with these problems, state delegates met in Philadelphia in 1787 and drafted the Constitution. This document created a new federal system and specifically delineated its powers, balanced between an executive branch, a bicameral legislature and the states. Although support for the Constitution was not unanimous (Federalists backed it; the Anti-Federalists did not), the Constitution was ratified by the states, in many cases with the stipulation that a Bill of Rights be added. Congress added the Bill of Rights in its first session and established the government’s third branch, the judiciary. George Washington, the first president, had within his cabinet both Federalists and Anti-Federalists. At the outset the most important figure was a Federalist, the Treasury Secretary Andrew Hamilton, at whose behest Congress approved the establishment of a national bank and the federal assumption of states’ war debts, both signal events in the development of the national government. Meanwhile, the federal government faced a tax revolt in the West and threats from the Spanish, French, and British. The Whiskey Rebellion was put down by federal troops with relatively little trouble at Pittsburgh; the Jay Treaty settled American differences with Britain for the moment, and the Pinckney Treaty did the same with Spain. Relations with France were rockier, but in the wake of the Citizen Genet and XYZ affairs, Congress enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts, which pushed France to sign the Convention of 1800 and avoided war. At home, the Alien and Sedition Acts provoked James Madison and Thomas Jefferson to issue the Kentucky and Virginia Resolves respectively, which not only argued that those acts were unconstitutional, but also raised the idea that states could declare acts of Congress unconstitutional.

Jeffersonian Democracy

Thomas Jefferson, an Anti-Federalist, won the presidency; the peaceful transition of power effectively capped the demise of the Federalists, but not before the Federalists had established a strong, working central government structured and principled as described in the Constitution, instituted a sound financial system, and began diversifying the economy. An indirect legacy of the Federalists, via the Judiciary Act of 1801 and the ensuing Marbury v. Madison, was the doctrine of judicial review, or the power of the federal judiciary to invalidate federal laws on constitutional grounds. Jefferson differed from the Federalists in that he saw government as a threat to individual freedom; the only protection against that threat was democracy and strong protections of personal liberties. He did not, however, reject wholesale the accomplishments of the Federalist administrations that preceded him, and his combination of them with his own beliefs came to be known as "Jeffersonian democracy." The Jefferson presidency saw increasing factionalism and a couple of controversies (involving Aaron Burr and John Randolph), but was most notable for its deeds outside of America. Jefferson attempted to face down the Barbary pirates, purchased Louisiana from the French (and sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark off to explore it), and tried to triangulate between the French and British, who were at war at the time. Americans prospered by supplying both sides in the war, but retaliatory actions by the combatants against each other endangered the Americans' racket, while the British practice of impressing American sailors threatened America’s neutral rights. In response, Jefferson and Congress passed the Embargo Act, prohibiting all American exports and thus unsurprisingly hurting the American economy. Congress soon repealed it and replaced it with the Non-Intercourse Act, which only forbade trade with Britain and France, and authorized the president to end the boycott against either at his discretion.

National Growing Pains

Succeeding Jefferson to the presidency, Madison also tried to deal with French and British predations on American shipping. Although by 1812 Napoleon’s Continental System appeared to be nudging Britain toward repealing the Orders in Council and reopening trade with the United States, Napoleon (in reality, the greater threat to the United States) had successfully played the United States against England such that the Americans felt compelled to declare war on Great Britain. Moreover, war fever in the United States was driven by westward expansion: after the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811 essentially ended Indian resistance in the Ohio Valley, western Americans wanted to take Canada; Madison saw attacking Canada as a way to force a change in British policy. The War of 1812, opposed by maritime interests and New England Federalists, was not a well-executed undertaking for either side, and ended in 1814 with a status quo ante bellum. In ensuing years the United States and Britain agreed to demilitarize the Great Lakes, settled the northern boundary of the Louisiana Territory as far west as the Rockies, and negotiated joint control of the Oregon Territory, as well as grew closer economically. The United States also concluded the Transcontinental Treaty with Spain, by which it gained Florida (for $5 million) and established boundaries with Mexico. And in 1823 the United States issued the Monroe Doctrine, stating that while it would respect already-existing European colonies in the Western Hemisphere and try to stay out of European affairs, the United States would treat any attempt to extend European control in the hemisphere as a hostile gesture. The Monroe presidency domestically is often called the Era of Good Feelings, but although it did see the end of the old Federalist–Anti-Federalist issues, shadows of sectionalism were arising as powerful leaders from the South, West, and North all gained prominence. The sections clashed on the Second Bank of the United States and monetary issues, protectionism and the tariff, credit and expansion in the West, and slavery. The first of many conflicts on that issue was addressed in the debate over Missouri statehood and was resolved with the Missouri Compromise (1820). And in response to the tariff, John Calhoun issued his "Exposition and Protest," which questioned federal authority and argued for states’ rights to nullify acts of Congress.

Toward a National Economy

Until the Revolution, Americans imported most of their manufactured goods from England. After the war, however, America's agrarian economy began to diversify. Textile mills led the American industrial revolution; Francis Cabot Lowell and his Boston Associates used the British model to establish the Boston Manufacturing Company and combine machine production, large-scale operation, efficient management, and centralized marketing under one roof. The success of Lowell and the industrial revolution was dependent on a number of interrelated factors: technology, cheap labor, dependable and abundant supplies of materials, financing, markets, and efficient transportation to market. The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries saw the invention of the steam engine and spinning machines as well as more-efficient water-power mechanisms, all of which made large factories possible. Furthermore, Eli Whitney's cotton gin made the cultivation of upland cotton throughout the South profitable. Labor to staff these factories first was provided by young, single women (in Cabot’s "Waltham System") and children, and, later, immigrants; the cotton gin essentially revived and entrenched the South's dependence on slave labor. In addition, the early industrial revolution operated in a favorable regulatory climate: the Bank of the United States extended credit, corporations chartered by states helped raise capital, and the Supreme Court was friendly to business interests. Not only did this capital and governmental oversight help industrialists, it also fueled a transportation boom: Americans built roads and canals, and operated steamboats on rivers. This improved transportation allowed manufacturers to deliver their goods and farmers their crops to markets throughout the country. The demand was there: industrial growth helped to create wealth, but the United States' population explosion of the era was no small boost itself.

Jacksonian Democracy

The Jacksonian Era arguably began when Jackson lost the 1824 presidential election to John Quincy Adams, because it was at that time that Jackson harnessed his party's apparatus to campaign for 1828. Many new states’ constitutions eliminated property qualifications for officeholders, while more offices were becoming elective rather than appointive: voting became more widespread and more important, thus competition between candidates increased, manifested in less concern for issues than for character assassinations of opponents. Response to this was a new party system, which required money, people, and organizations to run campaigns and get out the vote. Jackson, a firm believer in the "common man," used all of this to gain the presidency on 1828. Jackson's supporters, the Jacksonian Democrats, included rich and poor, abolitionists and slaveholders, and came from all regions of the country; they were united by suspicion of special privilege and large business corporations, belief in freedom of economic opportunity and political freedom (for white males), the conviction that ordinary citizens could perform the tasks of government, and support for states’ rights. Jackson ran his administration according to such principles, as he employed the spoils system and rotated his appointees through offices, killed the second Bank of the United States, and preferred to leave local improvement projects to the states. Jackson did, however, also believe in the Union and the power of the presidency, which he utilized in the Cherokee removal (contrary to Supreme Court rulings), negotiating trade agreements with Britain and exacting reparations from France, and in facing down the Nullification Crisis. Jackson was not, however, terribly economically savvy, as his idea to distribute surplus federal revenues to the states would have caused deficits, his battle against the bank threatened to provoke a panic, and his Specie Circular caused an economic downturn, the panic of 1837, which he bequeathed to his hand-picked successor, Martin Van Buren. The Whig candidate, William Henry Harrison, running a Jacksonesque campaign, defeated Van Buren in 1840.

        
The Making of Middle-Class America

When the French aristocrats Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave Beaumont toured the United States in the 1830s, both were struck by the degree of equality and social and physical mobility they witnessed in the American people. While each oversimplified, America's agrarian economy, cheap and available land, and voting laws did promote a certain equality relative to Europe. In the same era, however, the American industrial revolution was shaping a middle class and its institutions. The various embargoes of the early part of the nineteenth century caused many artisans to bring in and manage apprentices and lesser-skilled help; the rise of factories created a similar managerial class. Factories, of course, could not be homes also, and as a result more people began leaving home to go to work and cities began to divide into industrial and residential areas, which further broke down along class lines. Women were left at home, and the "woman's sphere" and cult of domesticity began to take hold. Childhood was also transformed in this era, as middle-class couples married later and had fewer children. The cult of domesticity often dovetailed into or crossed paths with other movements of the time, such as the Second Great Awaking and reform crusades including temperance, abolitionism, and women's rights. Other reformers included utopian communities, which were often, but not always, religious, and voluntary associations.

        
A Democratic Culture

By the 1830s, the United States was developing its own distinct culture as illustrated by movements in literature, the arts, and education. Romanticism, a literary movement that rose in reaction to the Age of Reason, valued emotion and intuition, and stressed optimism, patriotism, ingenuousness, and, in particular, the individual as part of nature and therefore divine. America's main proponents of this thinking were the Transcendentalists, the most famous of whom were Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Both objected to society's restrictions on individuals, but whereas Emerson was apolitical, Thoreau was something of an activist, as his poll-tax protest and essay "Civil Disobedience" show. Edgar Allan Poe was not a Transcendentalist but a romantic all the same; he was America's prototype tortured genius. Other writers, such as Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne, had a romantic focus on the individual, but explored the darker side of people's struggles with guilt, sin, good and evil, and pride; Walt Whitman borrowed from the all of them to create his own most American voice by relying on his natural inclinations and using commonplace subjects and often coarse language. In architecture and the decorative arts, the Federal, Gothic, Greek, and Italian styles all gained popularity, while technology made mass production of items such as wallpaper, rugs, and furniture possible. Painters of the Hudson River school and the luminists decorated wealthy homes; the middle class embraced Currier and Ives. This mid-nineteenth-century era also saw the growth of public education throughout the country save for the South. Educators were driven not only by the beliefs that humans were "improvable" and that democracy required an educated citizenry, but also by a desire to "Americanize" immigrants and create good employees. And though exceedingly few Americans used them, colleges began to reform and create more practical curricula in the 1840s and some to educate women. In the general culture, magazine, newspaper, and book publishers flourished, as did civic cultures in cities like Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Cincinnati, Lexington, and Pittsburgh. In the hard sciences, states sponsored geological and coastal surveys. An American sense of humor also emerged in this era.

Expansion and Slavery

John Tyler served a somewhat embattled presidency, as he often clashed with his cabinet and Henry Clay over issues such as a new Bank of the United States and the tariff. Southerners were most against the tariff, hinting at sectional differences that would grow with America's expansion in the next few years. The Webster-Ashburton Treaty, which settled the Maine–New Brunswick border and others between the U.S. and Canada, caused little sensation. Developments in the West, however, did, starting with Texas. Americans had begun to stream into Texas, a part of independent Mexico, and soon outnumbered the Mexicans. The conflicts between the two cultures led white Texans to fight a war for independence, which they won in 1835. Texans wanted to be annexed by the United States, but Presidents Jackson and Van Buren resisted because they neither wanted war with Mexico nor to rouse sectional tensions over slavery, which Texan statehood would inevitably provoke. But Americans continued to move to Texas and California, also a part of Mexico, as well as Oregon, which the U.S. shared with Great Britain, arduous journeys west undertaken with a firm belief in manifest destiny. Finally, by a joint resolution of Congress, Texas was annexed. Under President Polk, the United States gained the Oregon Territory south of the forty-ninth parallel from England and went to war with Mexico over disputed Texan territory. At minimal expense, the Mexican War won this territory, California, and much of the American Southwest; the later Gadsen Purchase added to this Mexican cession. And it paid immediate dividends for the United States, as gold was soon discovered in California. Meanwhile, however, California was ready to apply for statehood and the new territories had to be organized, both facts that necessitated addressing the question of slavery’s spread. The Compromise of 1850 settled the matter for the time being.

        
The Sections Go Their Ways

Industrialization further deepened the divisions among the sections in the United States, particularly between North and South. Although it did develop some manufacturing and mining, the South's economy was agricultural, and the industrial North's as well as European demand for its products, especially cotton, gave it no reason to change. The importance of cotton cultivation, however, had a number of consequences, among the most significant being that it kept the South rural and fostered a dependence on slave labor. The South's capital was tied up in land and slaves, and thus could not be used to develop industry or even transportation or marketing mechanisms for its crops, so the real profits from cotton went to northern merchants or middle men. Moreover, many plantations were for the most part self-sufficient, meaning that society was less interdependent. Slavery also had tangible social effects on whites: it made poor southerners regard work for others as servitude, reinforced male dominance, and kept them on a constant state of alert to the threat of insurrections. Meanwhile, in the North, westward expansion delivered raw material and markets, and corporations provided capital for the growth of industry. Such growth led to further technological innovations and economic expansion, but while machines increased production and made some wealthy, machines also helped to create a poor and unskilled working class, often immigrant, that shared few of the benefits of mechanization. For all of its industry, however, America still remained in these years primarily an exporter of raw materials and importer of finished goods; Great Britain was the major trading partner. American transportation also continued to improve, as steamships began crossing the Atlantic quickly and affordably (often bringing more immigrants back with them); internally, canals proliferated. The most significant transportation development, though, was the railroad, which could determine patterns of settlement and quite literally put towns and cities on the map. Financed primarily by private capital but also enjoying legislative and monetary support of local municipalities, the railroads spread throughout the North and Midwest, even further integrating the regions’ economies. The South lagged behind in its own railroads.

        
The Coming of the Civil War

North-South divisions deepened in the 1850s with the Compromise of 1850’s new fugitive slave law and the publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom's Cabin. In an attempt to distract attention from the sectional conflict and spurred by manifest destiny, a search for new markets, and a desire to spread democracy throughout the globe, the Young America movement guided American forays into Nicaragua, Mexico, and Japan as well as the negotiation of a treaty with Britain regarding a future canal across the Central American isthmus. But when American ministers produced the Ostend Manifesto proposing taking Cuba from Spain, many northerners saw it as a "slaveholders' plot." A leading voice for the Young America movement was Stephen Douglass, who based his politics in expansion and popular sovereignty; while he opposed slavery's expansion he did not see it as a moral issue. Hence he was the architect of the Compromise of 1850 and the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, which positioned the United States on the road to civil war. The act caused another realignment in national politics, for reaction to it split the Whigs into the American (or "Know-Nothing") and Republican parties; the Republicans also drew Free-Soilers, "Conscience" Whigs, and "Anti-Nebraska" Democrats. Meanwhile, abolitionists and defenders of slavery fought for control of Kansas, sometimes erupting into armed skirmishes. The tensions were exacerbated by the Supreme Court's Dred Scott ruling and its accompanying declaration of the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, and by John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia. The election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency in 1860 on a platform that included the exclusion of slavery from the territories led six southern states to secede out of fear of northern economic and political domination and the threat to slavery that it promised. They justified their action via states’ rights and a strict constructionist interpretation of the Constitution. President Buchanan claimed he had no legal power to oppose them.

The War to Save the Union

Lincoln assumed the presidency open to many viewpoints and not intending to threaten the South, but he made it clear that he believed secession illegal. And although he did not attempt to reclaim federal property seized by the Confederates in the Deep South, his decision to defend and rearm Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor provoked the first shots of the war. In response, Lincoln called up volunteers, and with that the states of the Upper South seceded. The North entered the war with the advantages of superior numbers, industry, railroads, naval strength, and a strong leader in Lincoln; it was hampered by poor military leadership. The South, though it had to create new governmental institutions and was committed to states’ rights, held sway over the North in its own military leaders, and was buoyed by the knowledge that it could fight a defensive war, and the confidence that the North would not stomach a long conflict and that the importance of cotton to Northern and European economies would give it an upper hand. On the battlefield, the South did perform well, and Lincoln was continually searching for adequate leadership for the Union army. The turning points in the war were the Battle of Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania, in which Meade defeated Lee, and Grant’s capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Lincoln named Grant Union commander. The North paid for the war effort with excise and income taxes, a direct tax on states, borrowing, and printing paper money. Likewise, the South relied on income and excise taxes, borrowing, and printing paper money as well as a tax in kind and cotton mortgages to finance the war, but for it, this was a serious drain on its resources. Its hoped-for help from abroad never came. In addition, both Lincoln’s and Davis's administrations had their share of conflicts: slavery remained a divisive issue in the North and some chafed at Lincoln’s expansion of presidential power, while in the South spats arose between Davis and state governors. Although it was not on his agenda at the outset, Lincoln made freedom of the slaves a war aim with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. It, too, was divisive in the North, but it gave the war an added moral dimension and drew blacks to Union lines. Nevertheless, by the end of that year, the South was on its way to defeat, worn down by the Union’s superior numbers and industrial might. The Northern economy, meanwhile, boomed as government demand stimulated manufacturing and Congress passed economically oriented bills that Southerners had blocked. Although there was inflation, some labor unrest, and labor shortage, the war hastened industrialization and modernization. The war also helped to change women's roles, as by necessity they took on some of the tasks traditionally assigned to men, who were off fighting: they became nurses, factory workers, and government clerks; they ran farms. Grant’s leadership and his and Sherman’s pursuit of "total war" brought about the South's defeat in 1865. The war not only preserved the union, it created the nation.

Reconstruction and the South

Even as the Civil War raged, Abraham Lincoln had rather conciliatory and lenient plans, some of which he implemented in Confederate areas under Union control, for readmitting the secessionist states. He was opposed by the Radical Republicans, who were intent on guaranteeing blacks rights and on punishing the Confederacy. Andrew Johnson tried to continue with Lincoln’s plans after the latter’s assassination, but control of the Reconstruction process was wrested from him by the Radical Republicans, who won large congressional majorities in the election of 1866. One of the major issues in the election was the Fourteenth Amendment, which granted blacks political rights in the South and outlawed the Black Codes that had sprung up throughout the former Confederacy. Johnson opposed the measure, but he was repudiated by the public, and, emboldened by their triumph, the Radical Republicans pushed ahead with a number of Reconstruction acts dividing the South into five military districts and setting stringent guidelines for the Confederates’ readmission to the Union. They also tried to impeach Johnson and only narrowly failed. Republican Ulysses Grant took over the presidency in 1868, helped by the votes of newly enfranchised Southern blacks. The Radical Republicans furthermore passed the Fifteenth Amendment, which guaranteed all blacks, including those in the North, the right to vote. Blacks also took advantage of the opportunities presented by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to become involved in politics in the South. Rebuilding the South, however, was difficult because of the damage of the war, and few in government or elsewhere had given much thought to the fates of the newly freed slaves. This and the South’s general lack of industry gave rise to sharecropping and the crop-lien system, which were often little better in practical terms for blacks than slavery. Although black political power was overwhelmingly minimal, white backlash nevertheless occurred, showing up in associations like the Ku Klux Klan, which terrorized blacks. Congress dealt with the Klan with three Force acts (1870–71), but its legacy lived on in conservative Democratic parties, which began to win Southern legislatures in the 1870s. Meanwhile, Northern interest in the problems of the South was waning, and with the Compromise of 1877 that put Rutherford B. Hayes in the White House, Reconstruction ended.