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After the Civil War, military conflict turned into political conflict. The Constitution originally had considered a slave only three-fifths of a person when calculating a state's House seats. Now, however, former slaves counted as full citizens, enabling the South to balance the North's rapid population growth. After Reconstruction, Southern states accompanied their return to national politics with a campaign of terror against African-American voters. Democrats, the party favored by white Southerners, gained control of the House. Republicans held the presidency. Partisan rivalry flared.
Many Republicans tried to protect the rights of black voters. Southern Democrats blocked these efforts, repeatedly tacking onto bills an amendment preventing the federal government from getting involved. Republican president Rutherford B. Hayes would then veto the bill. After two years of stalemate, the House Democrats finally abandoned the tactic.
Freedmen are illustrated in a Washington, D.C. polling place as both voters and staff.
Reproduced from The Uncivil War, by James H. Whyte, General Collections, Library of Congress
Rutherford B. Hayes, by Daniel Huntington, 1884
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress