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People Who Opposed the Freedmen’s Bureau

Democrats, opposed to the Republicans’ plan for Reconstruction, called white Southerners who joined the Republican Party scalawags.  President Johnson, the President who replaced President Lincoln after he was assassinated, actually opposed the Freedmen’s Bureau.

Some scalawags hoped to get jobs with the help of the African-American vote and then use those offices to make themselves rich. Southern Democrats  said these untrustworthy scalawags represented all white Southern Republicans. Some so-called scalawags honestly thought that a Republican government offered the best chances for the South to rebuild and create better jobs that were more like those in the North. The majority of the people called scalawags were small farmers who wanted to earn more money and prevent the former wealthy, or rich planters from regaining power again.

The Democrats used an equally unflattering name for the Northerners who moved to the South after the war—carpetbaggers. The name referred to the belief that Northerners arrived with so few belongings that everything could fit in a carpetbag, a small piece of luggage made of carpeting. Most white Southerners believed that the carpetbaggers wanted to take advantage of the South’s destruction after the war for their own profit.  However, like the scalawags, carpetbaggers came to the South for different reasons. Some were Freedmen’s Bureau agents, teachers, and ministers who actually wanted to help former slaves. Some people who came South wanted to buy land or hoped to start new industries legitimately. Still others truly were the dishonest businesspeople whom the Southerners hated.

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