Reconstruction and The New Social Order in The South The direction and manner of Southern Reconstruction was a topic that many people throughout the United States disagreed upon. William Grosvenor argues that Reconstruction of the South should be harsh for a multitude of reasons. Grosvenor, in his article, came to the conclusion that prior to the Civil War the US had never actually been one nation and one people, rather, it was made up of a loosely unified group of states who had many irreconcilable ideas. Primarily Grosvenor relied on the belief that harsh reconstruction would penalize the Southern states to a point where it would prevent all notions of a future rebellion and thus create one unified country as an end result.
It was also argued that the war was destructive to national prosperity and honor and thus must be dealt with severely. According to Grosvenor, a harsh Reconstruction would get rid of the governments of those states that had rebelled and allow the union to move on and grow. While Grosvenor argued that reconstruction should be harsh, Herman Melville said the antithesis of this. Melville believed that reconstruction should be lenient to the South. Melville believed that the South had already learned its lesson through the horrors of the Civil War. Not only that, he argued that the South was misled by leaders through years to the brink of a selfish war brought about by politicians. In addition to this, Melville also posited that because we had a duty to the former slaves, we must also be kind to the whites of the South as well because peace could come to the country through generosity from the North. I believe that both writers had some validity in their arguments, though neither were perfect concepts.
For example, in conjunction with Grosvenor, we see that even today there is yet to be one nation and one people in some regards. While any nation is made up of many people groups with different views and will at times disagree over certain subjects, The United States is today even more fractured into factions. Thus, similarly to Grosvenor’s logic, over the course of history we see that unity within a nation is rarely stronger than immediately following a devastating event such as the Civil War or 9/11. While I would tend to agree more with Grosvenor because of the unbiblical secession from the Union, one must admit that both of these men merely said what they thought would end in the best result for the nation as a whole.
Melville also made valid points such as recognizing that the South had lost the war overall and had lost many people as a result. While Grosvenor is seemingly advocating for a form of revenge for the North’s troubles, Melville is advocating for a less extreme and more forgiving Reconstruction. As a Christian I must admit that Melville’s attempt to appeal to the readers faith is somewhat effective- even if I don’t agree with him in totality.
While there may be some biblical basis to his ideas, it may have other biblical flaws. The issue as to whether or not any sort of rebellion throughout history is biblical is complicated and one that must be considered seriously. Grosvenor’s logic is seemingly coming from a motive to get revenge on the South. While reconstruction was in ways about retribution, the purpose should not have been to get revenge. Biblically this is addressed many places such as 1 Peter 3:9, Proverbs 20:22, and Romans 12:18-19.
Revenge is clearly unbiblical and thus coming at Reconstruction from this sort of view is wrong. However, in response to Melville, the Bible also addresses that we are to submit ourselves to the government because they have been installed in that position by God- whether we like it or not. Therefore, by this logic the South had sinned by rebelling against the government in the first place and was thus deserving of punishment. Accordingly, both sides had biblical precedent both for and against their logic.