Free «Why Reconstructions Failed» Essay

Why Reconstructions Failed

The era of Reconstruction proceeded the period of the Civil war and was aimed to change social, political and economic structure of society. Critics admit that this problem of society and solitude, in which the wilderness, with its vast scope, strange inhabitants, and unknown dangers, served as almost an antisocial force, lent a dual character to the westward movement in America. For the bulk of the nineteenth century, West was to remain synonymous with wilderness, Easterners were reluctant to envisage a broadly conceived western community whose members enjoyed perfect freedom from social restrictions. In a world increasingly concerned with social stratification, a man was measured more and more by his relation to the social order; dissociation from this order, once heroic, came to be wholly synonymous with lawlessness. Thesis Reconstruction failed because the state policies and strategies were unsuccessful and did not change social structure of the South and life of former slaves,

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During the era of Reconstruction, migration was the main mechanism of transformations and expected flows to be from areas of declining to areas of expanding economic opportunity. It was expected that local residents would move into growth sectors and migrants would take the place of those locals in the less prosperous sectors. Still, these policies were not attractive for skilled workforce. “That it was only the northern East and the northern West which the growing trunk lines united and stimulated was too much a matter of course to excite attention or interest. The ruined and prostrate region below Mason and Dixon's line offered scant attraction to capital or enterprise” (Dunning 1962, p. 150).

Among native white men, both in-migrants to and out-migrants from each region were more likely to be in white-collar jobs than those who stayed in their region of birth. But, as noted, whether they achieved this status after migration or before remains an open question. The situation in the Northeast is particularly interesting (Dunning 1962). It was clearly the most "developed" section of the country at this date and as such provides proportionately more white-collar opportunities. Although, the interregional flow to the Northeast was small, it included a substantially higher proportion of white-collar workers than the flow to any other region. This was possible because the opportunities to achieve white-collar status were greater in the Northeast, in particular because the large flow of foreign in-migrants were unable to respond to these opportunities. It was because "high" status migrants had a preference for this "developed" region. The high proportion of white-collar workers among the foreign- born in the South—in contrast to their status in other regions—reflected their contribution to retail trade as proprietors and sales workers; trade was a much greater proportion of the nonagricultural sector in the South than in any other region in the later decades of the nineteenth century (Ferrell, 2003).

The Reconstruction failed because farm workers did not migrate to south regions while slaves did not receive land to start their own farms. If farm white workers were most likely to have left the Northeast, manual and service workers were most likely to have stayed. Critics (Dunning 1962) admit that an interesting contrast emerges in the pattern of interregional migration of Northeast- and Southern-born workers. Southern-born men who were manual workers were more likely to be out of the South than were those in other occupations, while those who were farmers are least likely to has left—that was, the differences were exactly opposite the pattern among the Northeast-born (Ferrell, 2003).  These regional contrasts were in conformity with differences in what critics call the opportunity structure in each region. The interpretation that suggests itself is that expanding opportunities inhibit out-migration of natives who wish to pursue work of a given type and accelerate in-migration of those from other regions where similar expansion is not taking place. The appeal of this interpretation is somewhat lessened, however, by the fact that for both occupation groups and for both regions of origin the dominant destination of migrants is the North Central region. The fact that flows of workers (in all occupations) from both the Northeast and South arc predominantly to the North Central region can by no means be interpreted to mean that the North Central states are only receivers of workers. In the aggregate one could almost say that the North Central region functions as a sort of distribution center in this period, receiving workers from the two older regions and sending them out to the newest development area, the West. Differences among the three age groups are particularly instructive: among those forty-five years of age and over, the number of in-migrants to the North Central region is two and a half times as great as the number of out-migrants from the region; for young workers, the volume of in- migration is only about 75 percent of the volume of out- migration (Ferrell, 2003). What researchers have captured here is a turning point in the growth of the North Central region through net internal migration —from high positive growth in the pre-Civil War period to negative growth in the last decades of the nineteenth century. The negative contribution of internal migration, however, is more than offset by a continuing high rate of natural increase and by high proportions of foreign-born workers in the North Central region. According to statistics results: “the production of pig-iron declined from 2,560,000 tons in 1873 to 1,868,000 in 1876; our foreiggn commerce totaled $28 per capita in 1873, and but $21.93 in 1876; and the immigration which added 459,803 aliens to our population in the year of the panic added but half that number in 1875” (Dunning 1962, p. 237).

The Reconstruction failed because policies and migration patterns contributed to Northern and western regions but did not lead to significant changes in the South. Migration contributed to a structural change in employment either indirectly by "freeing" non-migrants to make the necessary adjustment or directly by the entrance of migrants to the expanding sector (Ferrell, 2003). The structural role of migration was random, i.e., that no differences existed in the employment distribution patterns of migrants and non-migrants. In this case, the role of migration was to shift the location of employment rather than to affect its structure. Strictly speaking, this occurred only in those regions when ( the employment distribution of migrants was identical to that of non-migrants in both the area of origin and the area of destination since a deviation from either of these distributions will affect the "global" structure. Following Slap (2006) the opposite situation may also obtain: migrants may be randomly selected from the area of origin and be randomly employed in the area of destination so that the structure of employment is unaffected in either area but the total structure is altered, the mechanism being the association of migration with occupational change on the part of the migrants. The consideration of occupational change leads quite naturally to the second aspect of migration noted—the extent to which migrants differ from the non-migrant population. In the present essay this consists merely of looking at the same data from a different viewpoint. For the country as a whole, 71 percent of these long-distance movers are from abroad; in the Northeast, in-movement from other regions is negligible, and the region depends almost entirely on the foreign-born for its "outside" recruits. Even in the South, 40 percent of the low level of outside recruits consists of foreigners, although the proportion falls sharply (from nearly half to 29 percent) among those born after the Civil War (Slap, 2006).

In sum, the Reconstruction failed because its policies were successful in urban and industrialized regions only depriving the South a chance to restructure its economy. Farm workers as a proportion of total employed are declining in all regions except the West. On the other hand, white-collar jobs were probably on the increase, and the post Civil War development of manufacturing, transportation, and other users of manual workers was having a sharp impact on the demand for blue-collar labor. The respective roles of native-born migrants and the foreign-born were to supply low skills manufactures and farms.

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