This paper looks at the actions of the Ku Klux Clan, focusing on Republican reconstruction as the main reason for the rise of this secret society.
REPUBLICANS! UNFAVORABLE ACTS CAUSED THE RISE OF THE KU KLUX KLAN The years after the civil war were frustrating times for the Americans. New laws and rules were posted for which to abide by and due to the outcome of the civil war, the people from the south had now to accept the new slavery laws issued by the political parties and congress. This created turmoil amongst both northerners, who mostly were against slavery, and southerners. This was also true for both political parties that consisted of the Republicans and the Democratics. Again the issue was always on the rights of blacks. The battles with certain individuals who felt it their duty to stand up for their idea of what the American way was. In 1866, just a year after the civil war, six confederate veterans formed a social club in the small town of Pulaski Tennessee. These men were set out to perpetuate white supremacy through out the south. The social club became official. The members came up with the name of Ku Klux Klan. It was a name taken from the Greek word “Kuklos” which means circle. They came up with rituals copied from college fraternities. They also assigned positions to special members. They were composed of the Grand Cyclop, The President, the Grand Magi, the vice- president, and the Grand Exchequer, the treasurer. The Klansmen adopt a uniform. The uniforms were white, long robes, White masks, And high pointed hats. ( Ingalls, Hoods 3 ) Adopted during 1866-67, the Republican party’s Reconstruction program threatened to turn southern society upside down. The promise of equal rights for blacks flew in the face of the widely held opinion of the white Southerners that the black race was innately inferior. This deep-seated racist belief had served to justify slavery, and it remained a major obstacle to uplifting blacks after the civil war. Indeed, Antiblack hatred drove some whites to extreme measures to resist Reconstruction. ( Ingalls, Hoods 6 ) The Republicans feared that barrings the blacks from politics would make the Democratics Party dominant again in the south and in congress. Congress divided the south into five military districts controlled by martial law. It took the vote away from large numbers of rebel whites. It declared that all black men could vote and hold office. And it ordered the rebel states to write new and democratic constitutions. Since Tennessee had become the first southern state to give black men and freed slaves the right to vote, it became most affected. ( Meltzer, 23 ) With the republican party controlling state government, exconfederates began to take up arms to oppose Reconstruction. Intimidation and violence were increasingly used against blacks and their supporters in the Republican party. ( Ingalls, Hoods 11 ) These rampages of brutal acts were mostly the work of the dreaded Ku Klux Klan. In 1867, Klansmen met in Nashville where they adopted a prescript, or constitution. This permitted the Klan to spread across the south. Prescript set an initiation fee, a dollar a member. Sworn to secrecy, recruits pledged to ‘protect the weak, the innocent, and the defenseless, from the indignities wrongs, and outrages of the lawless, the violent and the brutal. The Ku Klux Klan became widespread. Klan leaders proved unable to control their many followers and their harmless pranks turn into a lawless reign of terror. This leads us back to the turmoil caused by the republican’s Reconstruction. The Klansmen’s prime targets were either almost always black or if white, associated with the hated republican party. (Ingalls, Hoods 12-15) Klansmen invaded homes of blacks at night for their alleged wrong doings. These pertained of insulting whites to voting for republicans. Blacks were forced not to vote for Republican candidates. The Klan’s political emphasis also led to threats and attacks against white Republicans, particularly those who were public officials. Directed at Republicans “carpetbaggers” who came from the north and southern “scalawags” who cooperated with them, the Klan’s campaign of terror was designed to keep them from getting elected and to force their resignation if they won. (Ingalls, Hoods 17-18) The Klu Klux Klan came up with a new vengeance, this was the Secret order. The Secret order spread to the Confederate states from Virginia to Texas. just like in Tennessee, The Klan’s growth was ignited by the enforcement of reconstruction, which extended legal rights, especially the vote, to blacks. Newspapers sympathetic to the democratic party, spread the word about this new antiblack and anti-republic organization along within Klan officials. (Ingalls, Hoods 23) Huge numbers of people of both races in the south, now, for the first time, held political power. And that was the signal for the Klan and several other secret organizations to combine their terror in an attempt to destroy Radical Reconstruction. Blacks at some point held political offices but gradually the black people lost what little power they had to defend themselves. They saw most of their white allies drop out of the Republican Party. (Meltzer, 36) In Georgia, a mob of masked men murdered George W. Ashburn who was a white Republican. He was active in state politics. The Klan’s campaign of terror peaked during the election campaign of 1868, when the purpose of the violence was clearly to defeat Republicans and elect democrats. Thousands of black and white Republicans fell victim not only to beating but also to murder. (Cook, 45-46) Although Democrats still denied that the Ku Klux Klan was a problem, Republicans officials started prosecuting Klansmen in federal court due to Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 that congress passed at the beginning in 1870. This declined the Klan’s terrorists acts, even though some violent acts were still being practiced, it was only in isolated areas. Long after its death, the Reconstruction Klan lived on in southern legend. Its opposition to black equality and Republican rule made the Ku Klux Klan appear a heroic defender of “the southern way of life” in the eyes of many law-abiding whites who never joined the Klan but still despised Reconstruction. (Ingalls, Hoods 44) In conclusion, the shift of power to the Republican party after the civil war created a hostile environment for the Confederates. Reconstruction, brought upon by the Republicans, set fire to the racism of the people. This statement thereby coincides with my theory which Republicans’ unfavorable acts caused the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.