End of reconstruction to be redemption, History

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Why did white Southerners consider the end of Reconstruction to be "Redemption"?

In 1876, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden sought the presidency. Tilden received roughly 300,000 more votes than Hayes in the November election, but widespread fraud in Southern states, especially Florida, called the election results into question. Congress appointed a committee (which included members of both parties, as well as justices of the Supreme Court) to investigate the election results, and the committee's report recommended that Hayes, not Tilden, should be declared the winner.

Democrats were unhappy with the committee's recommendation, but proposed a bargain: they agreed to accept Hayes as the next president in exchange for promises of investment to construct more railroads in the South and at least one Southerner being included in Hayes' cabinet. Most importantly, they insisted that Hayes remove U.S. troops from the three Southern states (Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina) that had not been reconstructed.

In fact, Hayes was already committed to ending enforcement of the Reconstruction Act. After Hayes was inaugurated in March, 1877, he ordered the troops removed. Reconstruction was over. Many white Southerners referred to Reconstruction's end as Redemption, suggesting that the South had been rescued from Northern meddling. Frederick Douglass, who had escaped from slavery in the 1830s and became one of the country's most eloquent abolitionists, had a different response. As he put it, the U.S. government had allowed former slave owners to regain control over the entire South, and had abandoned black Southerners, leaving them vulnerable to "the wrath of our infuriated masters."


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