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Mission Impossible: Reconstruction Policy Reconsidered

Mission Impossible: Reconstruction Policy Reconsidered revi ew essay Mission Impossible Reconstruction Policy Reconsidered brooks d. simpson A central theme of Reconstruction historiography is the consideration of Reconstruction policy as debated, adopted, and implemented at the fed- eral level. Inherent in that exercise is the contemplation of whether poli- cymakers, working within the limits of what was possible politically, could have pursued a different course that would have met the twin objectives of sectional reconciliation and the promotion of a new birth of freedom and opportunity for African Americans liberated during the course of the American Civil War. To do that, scholars have to wrestle with coun- terfactual scenarios, an exercise with which not all of them are comfort- able. Yet historians are also ill at ease with the alternative conclusion that, given the circumstances, the end result was not only likely but also inevi- table. Thus speculation about alternatives goes hand-in-hand with a cri- tique of what happened, for how can one offer criticism of what was done unless one outlines an alternative that would have improved upon the historical result? A simple glance at Reconstruction historiography reveals that his- torians have always evaluated Reconstruction policy and policymakers according to what was possible, what http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of the Civil War Era University of North Carolina Press

Mission Impossible: Reconstruction Policy Reconsidered

The Journal of the Civil War Era , Volume 6 (1) – Mar 12, 2016

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright @ The University of North Carolina Press
ISSN
2159-9807

Abstract

revi ew essay Mission Impossible Reconstruction Policy Reconsidered brooks d. simpson A central theme of Reconstruction historiography is the consideration of Reconstruction policy as debated, adopted, and implemented at the fed- eral level. Inherent in that exercise is the contemplation of whether poli- cymakers, working within the limits of what was possible politically, could have pursued a different course that would have met the twin objectives of sectional reconciliation and the promotion of a new birth of freedom and opportunity for African Americans liberated during the course of the American Civil War. To do that, scholars have to wrestle with coun- terfactual scenarios, an exercise with which not all of them are comfort- able. Yet historians are also ill at ease with the alternative conclusion that, given the circumstances, the end result was not only likely but also inevi- table. Thus speculation about alternatives goes hand-in-hand with a cri- tique of what happened, for how can one offer criticism of what was done unless one outlines an alternative that would have improved upon the historical result? A simple glance at Reconstruction historiography reveals that his- torians have always evaluated Reconstruction policy and policymakers according to what was possible, what

Journal

The Journal of the Civil War EraUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Mar 12, 2016

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