The end of the bloodiest war in United States history brought about a new Reconstructive era forcing massive political, social and economic changes in the following 80 years to come. Political changes quickly followed with the addition and ratification of the 13th Amendment of the United States. Socially, change abruptly started with the organization of the Ku Klux Klan in 1866 in response to the equal rights given to African Americans and former slaves. Economically, the capitalist driven North was ready for the expansion of industrial growth and economic perseverance, first seen with the building of the Continental Railroad. As noticed in our Taking Sides, there is the possibility of clashing and opposite points of view. More notably with the topic of whether a ‘New South’ emerged from the Reconstruction era Ronald D. Eller “is convinced the southern economy made impressive strides in numerous enterprises, such as railroads and extractive industries” (Madaras and SoRekke, 31). James Tice Moore “insists that the South’s post-Reconstruction political elite were neither subservient to business interests nor willing to abandon the region’s antebellum rural traditions” (Madaras and SoRekke, 31). Within the years 1865-1945, the United States endured massive change in political, social and economic policies because of the implementation of new amendments, a rise in new social groups, and the economic growth of the United States through this era. There are three main reasons that support this position. First, the implementation of new amendments and policies ratified by politicians created massive change in the course of our history. Second, a rise in new social groups rose from the changing of governmental policies, this then led to groups speaking up and fighting for what they believe in. Finally, the economic growth changed substantially through these 80 years, leading multibillion-dollar companies to rise and the power of our economy to boom.
The amendments and policies passed by congress within 1865-1945, created massive change within politics and society. The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery. The 13th Amendment states “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place to subject to their jurisdiction” (Berkin et al., 373). The ratification in late December of 1865 was a huge factor in the United States taking a step toward equality. This amendment ended more than a two-hundred-year-old practice in the America’s and at the time was a huge change for many people. The next big step was the 14th and 15th Amendment to the Constitution. The 14th Amendment, which by the way is the longest amendment goes as follows, “no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of laws” (Berkin et al., 381). This law was very important in defining American citizenship and is yet another way the political standpoint in the Reconstruction era went through drastic change. To go along with this, the 15th Amendment to the Constitution “prohibited both federal and state governments from restricting the right to vote because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” (Berkin et al., 384). These three amendments passed within a span of 5 years allowed the United States to become more diversified and multicultural. It gave the African American community a sense of hope and a taste of the American dream. These political changes heavily led to a drastic change in society among all citizens no matter race or color.
The new social groups that arose due to the addition of governmental policies, led citizens to exercise their right to freedom of speech and fight for what they believe. The Ku Klux Klan organized in 1866 was the first barrier created by white supremacists in order to terrorize former slaves. The Klan was violent and used terror against black Republicans and their allies. The social aspect of allowing African Americans to be citizens of the United States was very unsettling to many Americans and this was the confederate way of acceptance. The KKK was a societal change in response to the amendments granted to slaves and people of any race or color. Next, the Black Reconstruction as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1875. I put this as a social group because it allowed for the African American men to hold positions in state and local politics. This gave the African American population the ability to give their opinion and fight for what they believe in. This was a huge societal change and the next step into the continuing acceptance of all persons. Thirdly, the women's suffrage movement and the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The 19th Amendment gives women the same right to vote as men. This was a multiple decade long movement that favored the way of the strong women fighting for their rights. The amount of social change in the 80 years from 1865-1945 was tremendous and the examples and analysis I provided showed that. The political and social changes led a third factor to rise and eventually fall into turmoil.
With the Civil War in the past the capitalist hungry North was more than ready for economic expansion and strength. The first big expansion of the economy was the addition of railroads. More importantly, the transcontinental railroad finished in 1869, which connected California, Omaha, and Nebraska to the eastern cities. This was huge in expanding the ability to travel passengers and resources across the whole United States. From a couple years prior, the economy looked to be headed in great upward direction. This was a massive change in the economy and proved the rise of these railroad companies was the start of something big. Although these companies were not making enough capital for continuous expansion, they were saved by investment banks, more directly John Pierpont Morgan. By offering stock or bond in these companies, the necessary amount of capital was gained for expansion. “Sales of railroad stocks provided the major activity for the New York Stock Exchange through the second half of the nineteenth century” (Berkin et al., 405). The allowance for this to occur created yet another spike in the economy and led to a massive increase in our economy. But in 1929, we saw not only can there be a massive increase in our economy, an economic crisis and great depression can take over. “Within the first week of the crash, stocks fell by a total of $30 billion dollars” (Berkin et al., 598). The Dow Jones Average flew down more than 24% leading investors and citizens as a whole scrambling. At the time, no one had ever witnessed the economy fail in such fashion. This massive change in our economy of 1929 is impossible to avoid and such proves that there was plenty of change through the economy between 1865-1945.
Within the long 80 years through 1865-1945, the United States endured massive change in political, social and economic policies due to the implementation of new amendments, a rise in new social groups, and the economic growth of the United States through this era. With the additions of the 13th,14th, and 15th Amendments, it shaped the political changes that we endured through such time. The KKK, black social groups and the women's suffrage movement helped produce massive change in our social principles. Economically, with the expansion of railroads, banks and the attendance of the Great Depression, it further proved the massive and drastic change of not only the economy, but social and politics too. The history of 1865-1945 is undeniable, a time of massive change through 80 years. In my essay, I only included three examples of how our country endured massive change, when many more could have been chosen.
- Berkin, Carol, et al. Making America: A History of the United States. Cengage Learning, 2016.
- Madaras, Larry, and James M. SoRelle. Taking Sides: Clashing Views in United States History. McGraw-Hill Education Create, 2017.