Government and Politics


What were carpetbaggers?

Carpetbaggers was a derisive term that referred to Northerners who arrived in the South in the early days of Reconstruction (1865–77), the 12-year period of rebuilding that followed the American Civil War (1861–65). Even though many of these Northern businessmen intended to settle in the South, Southerners viewed them as outsiders and, worse, as opportunists who only intended to make a quick profit before returning north. They were called carpetbaggers because many carried carpetbags as luggage; some Southerners even quipped that these Northerners could carry all their belongings in a carpetbag, implying that they were nothing more than transients. Nevertheless, Northerners who relocated to the South following the Civil War played an important role during Reconstruction. Some, aided by the black vote, gained public office and impacted state and local policy. But others proved to be corrupt. Because of the latter, the term “carpetbagger” became synonymous with a meddling, opportunistic outsider.


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