One hundred and fifty years ago, General Fredrick Steele related to the citizens of Arkansas that the Union invaders were getting ready to approve a new state constitution and prepare Arkansas for readmission into the Union- with or against her will. Steele wrote, “It affords the general commanding the highest gratification to be able to say that by the conduct of the army under his command, in connection with the wise administration of the Government by its officers at Washington, peace has been so far restored in your midst as to enable you to institute proceedings for the restoration of the civil government, by which order may be firmly established and the rights of persons and property secured against violence and the dangers of anarchy.”
Steele noted that, “While it [the state constitution] may have defects in the main, in accordance with the views of that portion of the people who have been resisting the fratricidal attempt which has been made during the last three years to overthrow the Government of our country, the convention has fixed the 14th day of March next on which to decide this great question, and the general commanding is only following the instructions of his Government when he says to you that every facility will be afforded for the expression of your sentiments, uninfluenced by any considerations save those which affect your own interests and those of your posterity.”
What Steele left out was years of anti-Southern reconstruction attempts to silence the citizens of Arkansas politically. No Southerner would be able to run for any political office for many years to come. While the Yankees sought to free the South of itself, what they did was free the South from economic prosperity to the rank and file of the poor and destitute.