Friday, October 17, 2008
"Go home, Yankee scum. BTW, nice luggage."
So: carpetbaggers. These were the cats who moved to the South after the Civil War to take over the local governments and, like, make sure the newly-freed slaves had some rights. The carpetbaggers were mostly white reform-minded types, as the Wikipedia article so aptly describes the situation: "Many schoolteachers and religious penises arrived in the South, some of them sponsored by northern churches." Yes, that is exactly what it said. Seriously. Apparently they all carried classy carpetbags (Christmas gift ideas, anyone?). Some of them leased or bought plantations and hired freedmen to work on them. Most of them were Union Army veterans.
Along with the backing of the U.S. Army's enforcement of martial law, northern Republicans and black freedmen effectively dominated state and local governments in the former Confederate states until the Compromise of 1876. White Southerners called their cooperative counterparts "Scalawags," which is a pirate-tinged insult that should really be used as much as possible outside the pirating world. White planters were kind of pissed that their economy had been destroyed by that whole "Emancipation Proclamation" thing, and poor whites were pretty pissed about having to compete with blacks for paying jobs. I'd say if I had to sum up postwar Reconstruction in one word it would be RESENTMENT.
Here's some more words to summarize some of the Carpetbagger-era's action:
Industrializing the South was the name of the game
Northern appointees were accused of rampant government corruption
Tennessee was the first Confederate state readmitted to the Union
Every black man was supposed to gain citizenship and suffrage with the 14th and 15th Amendment
Railroad monopolies were a carpetbagger specialty
Leagues of paramilitary whites like the KKK and the Red Shirts tried to intimidate blacks and Republicans
Obama's historic predecessor was elected in Mississippi
Prince of Carpetbaggers Milton Littlefield railroaded North Carolina's economy and government
Economic panic in 1873 helped usher out the era of Reconstruction
Rutherford B. Hayes removed the troops and left blacks to Jim Crow
Southern experience should have taught us that America is just no good at reconstruction*
One more charming fact: KKK-fighting Republican judge Albion Tourgée once claimed that "Jesus was a carpetbagger." 'Nuff said. Apparently hot, hot Jenny Lewis has a new album where she sings this "Carpetbaggers" song with Elvis Costello:
*Have I mentioned that I want to have Naomi Klein's babies?