Differing Views on Reconstruction

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By 1866, several distinct positions on Reconstruction emerged. These were divided into three opposing camps: Conservatives (democrats), Moderates, and Radicals. The Conservatives believed the South should be readmitted into the Union as soon as possible, but the Radicals and Moderates believed there should be consequences for succeeding.

The question of what those consequences should be separated Radical from Moderate. The answer to this question was as related to how important each side believed it was to enfranchise African Americans into this country (socially, politically, economically, and culturally) as it was in exacting an appropriate punishment for the treasonous South. Although the two Republican factions disagreed on several aspects of Reconstruction policy, they both understood that the Conservative approach to Reconstruction could never be enacted.

The Conservatives lead by President Johnson, believed in a rapid readmission, into the Union, for the defeated Southern states. Johnson's stipulations were solely that the states ratify the 13th Amendment, and repudiate Confederate war debt (thus making it null and void). A second more controversial measure to the democrat's plan for rapid reconstruction was the issuing of pardons to former Confederate officials, landowners, and generals. As a direct result of these pardons, former plantation owners' land was returned. The goal of the Conservatives during Reconstruction was obviously to return the South to the social, political, and economic structure of the antebellum period.

The Conservative plans for reconstruction allowed the former Confederate leadership, which led the South to war to regain high ranking political positions. This made the Republicans fearful that the South would eventually move down the path of war with the Union. Furthermore, it also proved to the South that there were no consequences for succession. This was unacceptable to both Moderates and Radicals....
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