Interpretations of the motives of radical Reconstruction leaders: an historiographical essay



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



For the past one hundred years, historians have interpreted the Reconstruction period and the motives of the Radical leaders in a variety of ways. Even though most authors have attempted to be objective, their opinions have often reflected feelings as intense as those expressed by the actual participants in Reconstruction. This intensity, as well as the various interpretations of Reconstruction occurred primarily because of the authors' tendency to explain the period in relation to contemporary problems. Writers during and just after the Reconstruction era described the period largely in sectional terms. Southern authors pictured Reconstruction as an evil age marked by gross corruption in the South, and by vindictive, selfish Radicals in Washington. Conversely, northern writers saw Reconstruction as a time when Congress attempted to peacefully restore the South to the Union and help the Negroes in their struggle for equality. [...]