This Week in Reconstruction, November 15-30, 1866

Dublin Core


This Week in Reconstruction, November 15-30, 1866


"Equal protection under the law." The debate over these five words, specifically whether they should be added to constitution is raging across Richmond and the Nation. What do those words mean? Are formerly enslaved people to be viewed as equal under the eyes of the law as their former masters? And those former masters, no longer will they be able to hold or run for elected office if they were former Confederate sympathizers. Will these disabilities cause a power vacuum in the South? On November 23rd the Dispatch publishes the full text of the proposed amendment to the constitution. It contains five short articles, but these articles have the potential to impact an entire nation. Though not yet ratified by the States, the proposed Constitution has been passed by both chambers in Congress. What would this new guiding principle mean for both black and white, rich and poor, educated and uneducated Richmonders? Does this great equalizer of an amendment even have a chance to be ratified and become the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution? No one knows. The Dispatch has bits and pieces of information and tries to force them together creating a cohesive article, but the newspaper, like everyone else, is truly just guessing. Reconstruction has become, as one headline suggests, a story of rumors. Fear and ignorance are allowing speculation and assumptions to be treated as fact. President Johnson has yet to make his position on the amendment clear, but that has not mattered. In an absence of fact the Dispatch, and regular citizens walking the streets of Richmond, are turning to rumors to piece together a narrative. The full impact of this amendment remains a mystery, but it has already been revolutionary.


November 15-30, 1866


Nat Berry