Why Didn’t Blacks Get Post-War Southern Lands?

(January 22, 2019) In today’s politically correct environment most academic historians lament that post Civil War Reconstruction failed to confiscate large amounts of land owned by Southern Whites and redistribute it to Blacks. This, they argue, would have given economic power to the Freedmen thereby minimizing the ensuing protracted racism. The chief reason Northerners failed to do so, they explain, was because Northerners chose to be lenient with the defeated Southerners. But they were not lenient, as this speech about my Southern Reconstruction book documents.

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In truth, the chief reason Northerners didn’t want to confiscate Southern lands was because they worried such action might adversely impact the national economy after the War ended in 1865. Since they rightly feared that a drop in wartime spending might cause a recession, they wanted the Southern economy to recover as quickly as possible, although they were unwilling to invest any federal tax money to help it along. As feared, America’s Gross Domestic Product declined 23% from $10 billion in 1865 to $7.7 billion in 1871. But during the same period annual cotton production alone increased from zero to 4.4 million bales, which about equaled the average annual production for the three years prior to the War. Southern production of tobacco and other goods and services also increased. Thus, without the South’s recovery the national GDP would have declined even farther.

Aside from the GDP, however, Northerners were anxious to get cotton back into production in order to improve the nation’s trade balance-of-payments, which threatened to be in almost perpetual deficit. As the table below documents, cotton alone accounted for about 70% of American exports before the War and for the decade after the War it represented an accumulated average of 61%. Notwithstanding that tariffs on dutiable items increased from 19% before the War to an average of 45% for nearly fifty years afterward, America reported a merchandise trade deficit for every year except two during the first eleven years after the War. The accumulated deficit for that period totaled $750 million. Without cotton exports the deficit would have been nearly $3,600 million, which was more gold than the Treasury had available to settle the international payments shortage.


The above figures underscore one reason why the Republican Party chose to abandon the Carpetbag regimes in the former Confederate states. Starting in 1872, and increasingly thereafter, Republicans became persuaded that the national economy would do better with White “home rule” state governments in the South in place of the Carpetbag regimes whose corruption was perceived as a drag on the region’s economic recovery.

10 thoughts on “Why Didn’t Blacks Get Post-War Southern Lands?

  1. Harris Syed

    I personally call out so-called “experts” and hacks like Amber Philips of the Washington Post and Scott Eric Kaufmann of Slate for posting propagandistic, one-sided treatments of the Confederate flag issue, they will claim that it supposedly “represents” rape or genocide but they ignore the facts that the vast majority of it occurred under the American or European colonial flags and that there are already racists who use these flags for their own agenda and yet they will never call out these flags since they are living in a victorious country (except Kehinde Andrews and a few others) and I’m sure that had the Confederacy won the Civil War they would have not done the same here.

    Much like the alt-right, Klansmen, or neo-Nazis (though these groups are more aggressive and violent), the Intersectional/Social Justice/Soc-Jus left will always seek to claim someone like Steve King or things like the Confederate symbols/statues as “racist” just to push their agenda and they will attack a majority group without even understanding what radicalized and drove them to be racist and anti-Semitic.

    1. Phil Leigh Post author

      The worst thing about those perpetuating the false mainstream narrative of the Civil War and Reconstruction is that they censor minority viewpoints. They do not appreciate that when their viewpoint was in the minority it was not censored. That’s how it was able to become the majority interpretation.

      The cultural censorship of any remarks failing to condemn Confederate heritage is mallows and evil. The Washington Post is among the worst offenders as is the taxpayer supported Smithsonian magazine.

      1. Harris Syed

        As far as my mention of Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and alt-righters you know that they are not good people (except for the followers of such movements themselves) well neither do I consider SJWs/Antifa/Feminists good and are in the same category as Ku Klux Klan/neo-Nazis/alt-right.

        It’s always the same for the former three groups towards politicians like Steve King and Donald Trump or symbols like the Confederate flag/monuments.

  2. Michael Bradley

    Another reason for the failure to grant land to African Americans was Republican belief in white supremacy and their desire to maintain an all white enclave in the mid-west. The Homestead Act of 1863 allowed land to be granted only to “those who are citizens or eligible to become citizens.” This language excluded Blacks. President Lincoln put a “Whites Only” sign in front of the Little House on the Prairie. When historians today talk about the desire of ante-bellum Republicans to prevent the spread of slavery in the west they should admit that the real Republican desire was to limit the spread of Black people into the west.

    1. ncrdbl1

      The language excluded those who were in rebellion against the Union at the time. In 1863 we were in the middle of the civil war. It applied only to the 11 states remaining in the Union. Many whites in states such as Kentucky were barred from the Homestead land. Several Homestead acts failed prior to the civil war to prevent the expansion of slavery west. Even though it was limited as to where it could expand.

  3. Christopher Coleman

    Careful, you’re analysis I fear is too near the truth about the postwar era. In this age of identity politics, it seems that truth–which is often complex and not susceptible to simple nostrums–is irrelevant and political orthodoxy–“correctness”–is what both academia and the mainstream media demand.


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