Critical Thinking

Between was assassinated in 1865 and his vice-president

Between
the years of 1861-1865, the democratic experiment that resulted in the United
States of America, faced her most perilous moment that historians now
refer to as The Civil War. The Civil War was a battle fought between the Union
states in the north and the Confederate States in the south, fundamentally
on what place did the institution of slavery belong in the country. At the
time, it had been the bloodiest war in the short existence of the United States
up until that point. Nearly 260,000 men- over one-fifth of the South’s adult
male population (Foner, Give Me Liberty.
2016) died for the Confederate cause. There was also much destruction
done to the Southern states, with a prominent example being William Sherman’s
campaign through the Carolinas and Georgia that left the infrastructure
and railroads in those horrendous conditions many years after the Civil War had
ended. Despite all of the damages, causalities, and destruction brought by the
Civil War the American experiment had survived and from 1865-1877 entered
into an era that historians now refer to as The Reconstruction era. This era is
known as reconstruction because it was the federal government’s attempt to
resolve economic, social, and political problems in the United States and to
create a new order after the Civil War.        

 

The
political issues that the federal government attempted to resolve during
Reconstruction were how to deal with the defeated Confederate states and its
constituents in reintegrating them back into the Union and as well as how to
deal with the former slaves. Initially, President Abraham Lincoln had a loose
Reconstruction vision with limited stipulations to readmit the Confederate
states back into the Union. Unfortunately, President Lincoln was assassinated
in 1865 and his vice-president Andrew Johnson succeeded him. President’s
Johnson policy for Reconstruction was even more lenient than Lincoln’s. He
believed that the Confederate states never actually left the Union and as
result, he did not believe that the Confederate states should not be punished
and should be allowed to handle its own affairs. (“”How did Andrew
Johnson’s plan for Reconstruction compare to Congress’ plan?.” enotes.com. enotes, 18 Sep. 2013. Web. 22 Jan. 2018.”) This presidential failure
to punish the rebel states was not agreed with by Congress, especially the
Radical Republicans in Congress. Congress took it upon itself to enact its own
Reconstruction policy and as a result, the Freedmen’s Bureau was created, the
passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments that gave African American men
their freedom, their citizenship, and their right to vote. However, with the
passing of the 15th Amendment, there was another issue that arose. One
prominent issue that arose during the Reconstruction era was women’s suffrage.
When the 15th Amendment was passed it guaranteed that all male citizens could
not be denied the right to vote based on race, color, or previous servitude.
However, some women saw African American males being granted the right to vote
as an opportunity for women to be included as citizens as well. However, many
males were unsupportive of women’s suffrage during Reconstruction as they
seemed more focused on blacks, calling it the “Negro’s hour” (Foner, Give Me Liberty. 2016). Congress
also passed many laws during Reconstruction that gave African Americans civil
rights and protected them from Black Code laws being passed in the South. For
the first time, African Americans were elected to hold positions in the
government. The United States of America, for the first time in its existence,
and created an interracial democracy government, a political success for the
Reconstruction federal government.  

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Another
area of success the federal government experienced during the Reconstruction
era came when tackling the problem of integrating the former slaves. The
creation of the Freedmen’s Bureau happened to “establish schools, provide
aid to the poor and aged, settle disputes between whites and blacks and among
the freed people, and secure for former slaves and white Unionists equal
treatment before the courts” (Foner,
Give Me Liberty. 2016). The experiment lasted from 1865-1870 and during
this time greatly helped blacks achieve growth in education, healthcare, and gave
the opportunity for blacks to build their own religious institutions such, as
Baptist and Methodist churches separate from white control.  

One
of the most pressing concerns of the federal government immediately after the
Civil War was helping millions of newly freed slaves enter into society by
creating a new system to replace slavery. During Reconsideration, former slaves
and former slave masters found that their lives had been changed completely.
Some of the economic issues that the newly freed slaves faced were that
had very limited skills outside of manual labor on a plantation or
domestic skills, many could not read or write. The economic issue that former
slave masters faced were a loss of workers to complete the void left by their
former slaves and submitting to the Northern states’ idea about free labor,
which meant that blacks were equal to whites in every sense of the word.
However, adjusting to this reality did not come overnight for white southerners
as journalist Sidney Andrews discovered, noting that “The white seems
wholly unable to comprehend that freedom for the negro means the same thing as
freedom for them. They readily enough admit that the government has made him
free, but appear to believe that they have the right to exercise the same
old control.” (Andrews,
Sidney, and Heather Cox. Richardson. The
South since the War: as Shown by Fourteen Weeks of Travel and Observation in
Georgia and the Carolinas 2004.) One of the many failures of
the federal government during Reconstruction was in 1865 when President
Johnson ordered all land owned by the federal government to be returned back to
its original owner. This act caused many former slaves to be stuck in poverty
with limited options that mostly included sharecropping or tenant farming, with
the Southern whites designing the system to resemble the former institution of
slavery as closely as possible, a failure of the Reconstruction federal
government.

In
conclusion, while the federal government achieved some political success during
the Reconstruction era by establishing the Freedmen’s Bureau, making African
American men citizens and also establishing their right to vote, the federal
government also failed such as by not granting newly freed slaves land
ownership. Some issues the federal government did not attempt to resolve at all
during this time, such as women’s suffrage. 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Andrews, Sidney, and
Heather Cox. Richardson. The
South since the War: as Shown by Fourteen Weeks of Travel and Observation in
Georgia and the Carolinas 2004.

“”How did Andrew
Johnson’s plan for Reconstruction compare to Congress’ plan?.” enotes.com. enotes, 18 Sep.
2013. Web. 22 Jan. 2018.
.

Foner, Eric, 1943- author. Give Me Liberty! : an American
History. New York :W.W. Norton & Company, 2014. Print.

 

 

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