The Problem of Reconstruction: The Political Regime of the Antebellum Slave South
Nabors, Forrest Andrew, 1966-
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Nabors, Forrest Andrew, 1966-
This project studies the general political character of the antebellum slave South from the perspective of Republicans who served in the Reconstruction Congress from 1863-1869. In most Reconstruction literature, the question of black American freedom and citizenship was the central issue of Reconstruction, but not to the Republicans. The question of black American freedom and citizenship was the most salient issue to them, but they set that issue within a larger problem: the political regime of the antebellum slave South had deviated from the plan of the American Founders long before secession in 1860-1861. The American Founders had attempted to establish natural rights republicanism in the nation. The slave South section of the nation had transformed into an oligarchic political regime. The higher aim of the Republicans was regime change and the re-union of the nation on the restored principles of natural rights republicanism. To show this, I first recover the Republicans' common analysis of the slave South, drawing from the writings and speeches of Reconstruction Republican Congressmen. I present their overlapping points of analysis and organize their analyses by the traditional theory of political regimes. I divide their analyses into the form of the oligarchic regime, the cause (slavery), and how the oligarchy historically developed since the founding period. Secondly, I study the slave South in three institutional dimensions. According to the Republicans, the oligarchy depended upon specific institutional arrangements in education, property, and the organization of state government. Critically drawing upon a broad array of secondary scholarship, I test their claims by examining how education, property, and government supported oligarchic rule in the slave South. My analysis concurs with the Republicans. My conclusion advances a two-regime theory of American Political Development. Reconstruction was a continuing act in a long 19th century inter-regime struggle between republicanism and a revolutionary oligarchy rising from the slaveholding South.
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