Three Months Among the Reconstructionists

In 1865, an Illinois-based journalist wrote a scathing report on post-Civil War life in the South

However unfavorable this exhibit of the negroes in respect to labor may appear, it is quite as good as can be made for the whites. I everywhere found a condition of affairs in this regard that astounded me. Idleness, not occupation, seemed the normal state. It is the boast of men and women alike, that they have never done an hour's work. The public mind is thoroughly debauched, and the general conscience is lifeless as the grave. I met hundreds of hale and vigorous young men who unblushingly owned to me that they had not earned a penny since the war closed. Nine tenths of the people must be taught that labor is even not debasing. It was pitiful enough to find so much idleness, but it was more pitiful to observe that it was likely to continue indefinitely. The war will not have borne proper fruit, if our peace does not speedily bring respect for labor, as well as respect for man. When we have secured one of these things, we shall have gone far toward securing the other; and when we have secured both, then indeed shall we have noble cause for glorying in our country,--true warrant for exulting that our flag floats over no slave.

Meantime, while we patiently and helpfully wait for the day in which
"All men's good shall
Be each man's rule, and Universal Peace
Lie like a shaft of light across the land,"

there are at least five things for the nation to do; make haste slowly in the work of reconstruction; temper justice with mercy, but see to it that justice is not overborne; keep military control of these lately rebellious States, till they guaranty a republican form of government; scrutinize carefully the personal fitness of the men chosen therefrom as representatives in the Congress of the United States; and sustain therein some agency that shall stand between the whites and the blacks, and aid each class in coming to a proper understanding of its privileges and responsibilities.

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