America’s war on terrorism has deep roots… deeper than many care to remember. The President has the duty to protect the citizens from threats abroad and in our backyard. US Grant did just that during Reconstruction in the South. The terrorists were the Ku Klux Klan.
The Klan was terrorizing former slaves… and in many cases, killing with impunity during Reconstruction. Local law enforcement and state militias provided little relief. Grant speedily signed a third Enforcement Act, designed to bring law enforcement under Federal control. Klan atrocities had grown so prevalent, no accurate statistics can measure the true impact. The law gave Grant the power to:
- Suspend habeas corpus in counties deemed “detrimental to implementation of Federal law”
- Use US military forces in the execution of the law
- Try the offenders in Federal court.
Grant ordered sweeping raids across… Louisiana, South Carolina, and Georgia in 1871. Federal troops arrested hundreds and forced many hundreds more to flee. Federal courts, many with black jurors, handed down the stiffest of penalties. The power and influence of the Klan was broken.
In an all-too-common pattern… the extreme measures polarized the American people. Grant’s actions were necessary, but American voters were swayed by the perceived improprieties. Reconstruction came to a crashing halt in the election of 1876.