Reconstruction and the Paris Commune

Mark Lause MLause at
Sun Aug 10 12:48:22 MDT 2003

The arguments for confiscation of plantations and allowing them to be
carved up as the "forty acres and a mule" had a direct bearing on class
structure in the North.  The argument of the Radicals and proponents of
the "agrarian" division of land included the idea that the planters had
not really worked the land to make it valuable and had not participated
in the social production of what was valued.

When a Stevens or a Julian made such an argument, it had obvious
ramifications for the working class in the North.  The railroad, coal
and iron capitalists certainly realized that the same arguments applied
to industry on this new post-war scale.

It is important to distinguish between the wartime Republican leadership
and those that replaced the Radicals after 1866.  Detailed studies of
the Republican Party in the various states trace the ascendancy of a new
a much more conservative leadership, espousing a "constructive" policy
of developing railroads and manufactures.

By the middle of the 1870s, a lot of those early founding Republican
leaders had moved on to attempt to rebuild third party movements.  Four
former Union generals ran against each other for president in the 1880
election, posing a clear decision about the meaning of Union victory.  A
founder of the Iowa Republican Party--General James Baird Weaver of
Iowa--ran on the Greenback-Labor ticket (backed by the Socialistic Labor
Party) and argued for Federal intervention in the South over black
voting rights.

Their platform included the plank that: "We declare that land, air, and
water are the grand gifts of nature to all mankind, and the law or
custom of society that allows any person to monopolize more of these
gifts of nature than he has a right to, we earnestly condemn and demand
shall be abolished."


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