Most of the South's big landowners are Democrats. Those Democrats are determined to bring back as much of the old South as possible, using whatever it takes: black codes, murderous Klansmen, or unfair and unconstitutional poll taxes and literacy laws that stop poor blacks from voting. The Democrats who oppose Reconstruction call themselves Redeemers. In the 1870s they are busy "redeeming" one state after another, driving Republicans from power. Emmanuel Fortune is a former slave living in Florida who is among those driven out by the Klan. He writes, "Their object is to kill out the leading men of the Republican partymen who have taken a prominent stand."
In Washington Andrew Johnson is the wrong man for the job. And his Republican successor, the former Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant , isn't right either. Being a general made him popular, but it didn't prepare him for the presidency. He is too trusting and many of those men he appoints are untrustworthy. They steal millions and millions of dollars in public lands and resources. The President and the people are their victims. The Grant presidency is a time of appalling corruption. A newspaper editor writes, "It is a political position and he knows nothing of politics ."
By the time Grant enters the final year of his presidency, the North's citizens are tired of hearing about the need for a just society in the South. They have problems enough worrying about fair government in Washington. Then in 1876 there comes a controversial presidential election. The votes for Samuel Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes are so closely divided it all comes down to some disputed returns in Florida and two other states. There are reports that blacks have been kept away from the polls in Florida, and that ballots there were confusingly printed. A special Electoral Commission is created to decide who should be the next president. Finally, when Republican candidate Hayes promises to pull federal troops out of the South if he is elected, he gets the job in what many see as a political deal. Hayes keeps his promise. Soldiers leave the South; and no one is left there to enforce civil rights for blacks. Reconstruction is over. Hayes has been willing to sacrifice blacks' constitutional rights to gain the presidency .