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: During Reconstruction, the federal government was seen by most white southerners as the enemy, instituting policies and practices at the end of a bayonet that threatened their very identity. Government was also painted as a plunderer of a different sort in the form of Tammany Hall. How does suspicion of the government in this period compare to that of the “drain the swamp” era? Use the cartoon “The End of Reconstruction, 1877” and quotes from then civil-service commissioner Theodore Roosevelt to buttress your argument.
In a paragraph or two, draw connections between this historical time period and events occurring in the United States today. Explain why this topic is relevant to the United States today. What other perspectives would you want to hear on this topic? Why is it important to see multiple perspectives?
Consider how these sources relate to and provide insight into those suspicious of the government’s real intentions and effects. What basic issues are still being debated today? Where do you stand?
“The men who are in office only for what they can make out of it are thoroughly unwholesome citizens, and their activity in politics is simply noxious. . . . Decent private citizens must inevitably be driven out of politics if it is suffered to become a mere selfish scramble for plunder, where victory rests with the most greedy, the most cunning, the most brazen. The whole patronage system is inimical to American institutions; it forms one of the gravest problems with which democratic and republican government has to grapple.”
2 Title/Location: 23-11 Garfield and Arthur, text from “Contending Voices” The Spoils System, text from Theodore Roosevelt’s writings
Description of This Source: Future U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) served as a civil-service commissioner from 1889 to 1895 and charged the patronage system with “tending to degrade American politics.”
Title/Location: The End of Reconstruction, 1877; 23-8 The Compromise of 1877 and the End of Reconstruction, Image 23.4
Description of This Source: President Hayes’s “Let ‘em alone” policy replaces the carpetbags and bayonets of the Grant administration, signifying the end of federal efforts to promote racial equality in the South—until the “second Reconstruction” of the civil rights era nearly a century later.