Republican governments in the South were short-lived and bitterly opposed. They rested, one observer wrote, on a "three-legged stool" of "carpetbaggers, scalawags, and Negroes"-an unsteady alliance of northerners who had come South, native white southerners (mostly Unionists and former Whigs), and freedmen in which whites controlled the party and the governments but depended on black votes. The Republicans in office tried to build "a new South" by underwriting railroad construction, establishing public school systems, reforming tax codes, and promoting industry and agriculture. The increased costs of government, and the inexperience of so many new men in office, led to charges of incompetence, injustice, and corruption by Democrats. But more than anything else, conservative whites used the presence of blacks as voters and officeholders as proof that Republican governments were illegitimate and justified any means to overthrow them. The rise of and widespread support for the Ku Klux Klan revealed the extent to which white southerners endorsed violence as the final say as to who should rule.

The Fifteenth Amendment. Celebrated May 19th, 1870. Colored lithograph (New York: Thomas Kelly, 1870)