After the US civil war when slavery was (kinda) ended, is there a argument to be made that with the zeal of anti-slavery social change people must have been feeling that they, at least in the north, would have been more willing to embrace further social changes for black people, riding the momentum of the large, civil-war level changes that were happening.

I ask this as you often see movements for large social changes like in the 60s, and maybe even now; ether fizzle away soon after success, or march on, demanding more. The best example of this social march is in my opinion the French Revolution. It was a mess, but you can't say it wasn't also histories greatest example of this kind of marching social liberalism.

So ya, was the post-civil war treatment of blacks, where they were free, but not accepted, (in the north,) an example of a wave of social liberalism fizzling, or were there other forces at play that could explain why more progress wasn't pursued after the Civil War?

  • Can you provide any evidence of zeal for civil rights in the post war era? I don't think that reconstruction and carpetbagging supports your assumption. Northern labor strongly opposed an influx of new cheap labor and preferred that African American stay in the South. I think you may wish to cite all nontrivial assertions. – Mark C. Wallace Apr 18 '17 at 1:11
  • The French Revolution was more complicated than the two sentences mentioned in the OP. The revolution was a back-and-forth affair that went from monarchy to a republic to the Directory to an empire and back to the original monarchy, which fell in yet another revolution. Revolutions often swing back and forth for various reasons, and that may be a key to your answer here. – Smith Apr 18 '17 at 13:41
  • I have (hopefully) clarified the question, and nominate it for reopening in its current form. – Tom Au Apr 19 '17 at 15:51

Yes; the US lost appetite for the advancement of civil rights due to the high cost of Reconstruction.

Soon after the Civil War, in 1866 the landmark Civil Rights Act was passed, affirming the civil rights of all US citizens. This occurred against the backdrop of sweeping wins by Republicans, many of whom were Radical Republicans who wanted to push for civil rights. Since they were democratically elected, you can argue that by proxy, the people of the US wanted civil rights.

But Reconstruction did not progress as well as many hoped; the South was still economically devastated and suffering from endemic political violence a decade after the war, and the country lost appetite for the high costs. Reconstruction ended, leaving civil rights unenforced in the South for almost a century until the Civil Rights Movement.

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It's called war fatigue. After four years of fighting a war, people want to resume their lives and not continue agitating for the social change that brought about the war. And the level of zeal of the 1960s simply can't be sustained for long, which is why it fizzled. The main exception,the French Revolution finally fizzled out when its main instigator, Robespierre, was sent to the guillotine.

Total deaths in the Civil War, were between 600,000 and 700,000. That's more than in all the other American wars put together. More to the point, it would be the equivalent of 6-7 million men today, taking our current population as ten times our Civil War population. The war literally decimated a whole generation, and left behind a slew of widows (and orphans). Post war society was more concerned with rebuilding than with further "reform."

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