Texas Wesleyan Law Review
This Article examines several legal aspects of Reconstruction. It first looks at how the Texas and North Carolina supreme courts helped mediate the transition from a pre-war to a post-war society. Were the courts composed of unconditional Unionists, Conservatives, or a mix? Did they try to help the people of their states accept slav- ery's demise or did they aggravate the sting of defeat? A closely related issue is how Reconstruction lawmakers adjusted the legal rights of blacks following the abolition of slavery. Did they leave a permanent imprint on civil rights law or did they confirm Tourgee's judgment that Reconstruction was ultimately a "fool's errand"?' The Article next examines state constitutional history, which is also necessary for a full understanding of Reconstruction's legal legacy. North Carolina's Reconstruction constitution encompassed not only racial reforms but also a variety of attempts to catch up with social and economic reforms enacted in other parts of the nation before the war. Texas's Reconstruction constitution did the same, albeit to a lesser extent, because Texas had already adopted some of the social and economic reforms in question before the war. Texas enacted a new constitution at the end of Reconstruction and North Carolina added extensive amendments to its constitution at the end of Reconstruction, but both states stopped far short of eradicating all Reconstruction-era constitutional reforms. The Article next examines the evolution of economic law in Texas and North Carolina during the Reconstruction era. Reconstruction had profound economic as well as political consequences for the South. A new agricultural labor system had to be developed to replace slavery. Lawmakers had to arrange an orderly transition from the Confederate financial system back to the federal system and respond to problems arising out of the widespread poverty and debt created by the war. By 1865, the Industrial Revolution was well underway in the North, and the Southern states had to decide whether to shape their legal systems to follow suit or to preserve their rural, agricultural pre-war character. Lastly, the Article examines changes in married women's property rights law during Reconstruction. Many Southern women gained an "experience of self-sufficiency during the war [that] opened the door a crack to the 'strong-minded' women." This fact, together with a desire to alleviate post-war economic distress by protecting family assets from creditors, led several ex-Confederate states, including North Carolina, to expand married women's property rights during Reconstruction. Other Confederate states, including Texas, had been leaders in the married women's property rights movement before the war and therefore experienced less change in this area during Reconstruction.
Joseph A. Ranney,
A Fool’s Errand? Legal Legacies of Reconstruction in Two Southern States,
Tex. Wesleyan L. Rev.
Available at: https://doi.org/10.37419/TWLR.V9.I1.1