August 30, 2018

Radical Reconstruction

A Revolutionary Agenda

  • Civil Rights Amendments/ Laws
  • Freedmen's Bureau
  • Military occupation and martial law
  • Sweeping federal enforcement powers

Why did this happen?

Electoral incentives?

Nevertheless, surprising

In the preceding years:

  • abolitionism was politically weak
  • power of "white republicanism"
  • erosion of African American political and civil rights in the North
  • Democrats use racial appeals

Reluctant Republicans

Attorney General Edward Bates:

"That the great principle of the Republicans [was] negro equality [is] a down-right falsehood"

Abolitionist critics:

Republican party was a party for "white men, not for all men"

Party leaders on suffrage expansion:

"political suicide"

How did Republicans get electoral support?

Given a racially conservative electorate…

and a revolutionary agenda…

Civil War



  • are politically active (Blattman 2009, Parker 2009)

  • have new organizational skills (Jha and Wilkinson 2012)

  • acquire new political commitments (Koenig:2016; Grossman, Manekin and Miodownik 2015)

Union Veterans and Wartime service

  • young men, far from home, intense experience

  • 2.1 million servicemen, ~24 percent of 1870 electorate

  • Known mobilization around pensions (Skocpol 1993)


Contact (Allport 1954, Mo and Conn 2017)

Interaction \(\xrightarrow{}\) reduced prejudice; earned citizenship


Exposure to slavery \(\xrightarrow{}\) moral, strategic need for abolition (Manning 2007).


Combat and loss experience \(\xrightarrow{}\) commitment to cause (Union and Liberty); antipathy toward enemy (Grossman, Manekin and Miodownik 2015, Koenig:2016)




Civil War Database: relational database of soldiers, units, combat

  • Residence county for CT, IA, IL, IN, ME, MA, VT, WI
  • Fraction of military-age males enlisted

Wartime experience

Dyer's Compendium: geographic location of regiments over time


  • County-level Republican voteshare in federal elections
  • County-level votes on black suffrage in referenda in IA and WI



  • Republican Voteshare (pre- and post- 1861)
  • Referenda on black suffrage (1857 and 1865/8)

Lagged Dependent Variables

  • Suffrage Referenda


Enlistment and Republican Voteshare


Enlistment and Suffrage Votes

Effect of Enlistment on Support for Black Suffrage (IA and WI Referenda)
Dependent variable:
(Vote %) (Elig. %) (Vote %) (Elig. %)
Pro-Suffrage Δ Pro-Suffrage
(1) (2) (3) (4)
Enlistment (%) 0.320*** 0.173*** 0.433*** 0.258***
(0.098) (0.064) (0.118) (0.081)
Constant 0.394*** 0.424*** 0.306*** 0.354***
(0.035) (0.022) (0.037) (0.026)
Lagged DV Yes Yes No No
Differenced No No Yes Yes
Observations 131 131 131 131
Note: *p<0.1; **p<0.05; ***p<0.01
Data from state constitutional referenda across 131 counties in IA and WI. All models include state fixed effects. Robust Standard Errors


Contact: Days in mixed-race brigades

Sacrifice: Days of Combat Experience


What did we learn?

Wartime service drove voting for Republicans/Suffrage in critical elections.

Reduction in prejudice?

  • Probably not. (White 2016)
  • Winning the war means Union and Liberty