The exceedingly harsh conditions imposed upon the defeated Southern people by the victorious Union government led to perhaps even more bitter resentment and hatred than did the war itself. It is probable that few people outside of the South today are familiar with this dark period of US history. Francis W Springer summarises the impact of these conditions on Southerners on page 161 of his book War For What?:
The Reconstruction era lasted eleven years, and its effects were all bad. At the end, the Republicans took the presidential victory they had bought from the Southern Democrats, and left. The “Liberators” abandoned the impoverished Negroes and left them to fall back on the impoverished whites for life’s necessities. The country had been picked clean, and the terms for “re-entering the Union” [which Lincoln had claimed the Southern States never left] to which the captive legislatures had agreed under the bayonets of occupation troops would leave the South burdened with debts for a hundred years, debts paid into the federal treasury unto the last penny while debts of foreign nations, even hostile nations, were being forgiven or reduced to mere tokens.
Propagandists promptly promoted the popular belief that no conquered people had ever been shown such leniency, but historian Charles Francis Adams wrote that he could not recall any case where the vanquished party had a heavier fine inflicted upon it, and certainly no occasion in history when recently enfranchised slaved had full legislative power given them over their former masters. Adams considered Southern slaves worth about three billion dollars which, plus 800 million dollars toward paying the pension bill (enemy pensions), made the Southern indemnity equal to the indemnity imposed upon the French by the Germans after the War of 1870. The French lost Alsace Lorraine and were assessed a billion dollars cash, but war damage was nothing compared with devastation of the South, and the French population was six or eight times that of the South- the white South, that is. The whites paid the taxes and bore the cost of the indemnity. Negroes would pay but little taxes for many years. It seems worth while asking why the “enormous” reparations enforced by Germany were considered the “scandal of the 19th century.”