|Date(s):||August 24, 1867|
|Tag(s):||Reconstruction, Union, Freedmen, Education, Confederate leaders, Reconstruction Acts|
|Course:||“The United States: A Nation Divided, 1836-1876,” Wheaton College|
This document is an open letter to General Grant from Major General Pope in regards to allowing confederate leaders to be involved in the Reconstruction process in the South. The main piece of evidence used by Pope to further his argument about rebel officials role in reconstruction, is a speech made by B.H. Hill. Pope claims that the speech represents the feeling of the majority of the whites in the south, that reconstruction will never be accepted because of the drastic changes it would require. Although, Pope makes it clear that he does not want their ideas and thoughts muffled at all from the United States, but that having an open conversation with these ideas will better help it to not happen again. If these voices were kept silent, Pope argues that reconstruction would fail within a few years. Having this discussion available for everyone to hear would actually make reconstruction strong and last long, since people would have "with[stood] the influence of the secession party". Overall, Pope writes how reconstruction can only be successful if the people in the south support it and work towards it, otherwise discontent will fester until more conflict inevitably boils over. Pope supports the Reconstruction Acts actions towards disenfranchising since he believes it would keep more rebel thoughts out of actual politics. Other sources that Pope uses are letters by Hill, by Governor Perry of South Carolina, of Hershal V Johnson of Georgia and many others who represent the anti-reconstruction of the South. For Pope, reconstruction is not just about ending the rebel discourse, but maintaining efforts for reconstruction and reconnection to the Union long after the individual rebel voices fade away and the states are readmitted. In order to know how to make reconstruction successful in the long term, the rebel ideologies and arguments must become fully developed in the open and public sphere, according to Pope. He also shows how the education and social integration of the freedmen is essential to making them a part of society, and will better the society. Pope says that any attempts to "check" the education of the freedmen would severely undermine any progress made. Pope concludes the letter to General Grant by claiming that he believes any straying from the course he outlined for reconstruction would end in disaster, destruction, and the winning of evil.
Major General Pope's perspective seems particularly unique when Blight's book Race and Reunion is taken into account. According to Blight, the "politicians sought to permanently bury the issues of war and simultaneously used those very issues to fan the flames of political difference"(Blight 98). Pope's open concept take on Reconstruction and dealing with rebel leaders/thoughts is just the opposite of this, which seems to be against the majority opinion based on Blight's writing. Pope's perspective, while not part of the three main perspectives of the South (white unionists who moved south during Reconstruction, white southerners--poor men and slaveholders, and the freedmen), provides historians with what appears to be a minority perspective on Reconstruction. What Pope wanted for the reunion of the United States and for Reconstruction was highly unlikely during that time given the increased polarization of politics during that time. As Blight says, the politics became about arguing over the end of the war, who won, and who would win. Major General Pope had an optimistic approach to the reunion, however since the war was still being fought in the political arena, it made his plan unrealistic.