History 2301-SA01 – United States History to 1877
18 July 2011
Pre and Post Reconstruction Period – Politics, Economic and Social Effects
This research paper is intended to explain in general terms some of the political, economics and social effects America dealt with during the Pre and Post Reconstruction Period.
During the last years of the Civil War, as Union forces moved closer to victory and millions of former slaves became free, Americans began to think about how to reconcile the splintered parts of the nation and were immediately faced with a series of complex questions that required some resolutions. Some issues raised were: a) How would the former states of the Confederacy be integrated back into the Union? b) What type of labor arrangements would replace slavery in the South? c) Would southern politicians who had joined the Confederacy be excluded from politics, or an even more important question, would they even be welcomed back to Congress and state legislatures in the spirit of reconciliation? d) How would the South, which had suffered the greatest damage in the war, be rebuilt so that it could prosper economically? e) How would civil rights be defined for the four million slaves who became free during the war? f) What roles would African Americans be able to play or be welcomed in the political, social and economic environment of the post-war period? g) What additional measures would be taken to ensure that African Americans were treated fairly and justly? While there were no decisive answers to any of these questions, each drew a range of responses from different sectors of American society known as “The Reconstruction” and is widely viewed as a crucial time in American history. History shows that American politics, society and economics underwent major transformations during Reconstruction and each of them was met with main opposition; thus, both radical and conventional strains dominated the era. For instance, President Abraham Lincoln's signing the Emancipation Proclamation (see figure 1) - (Library of Congress, The Strobridge Lith. Co., Cincinnati. “Abraham Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation”, C1888). was viewed as one of the most radical and revolutionary acts in American history as it officially freed slaves. Additionally, President Lincoln's comprehensive agenda/administration was in favor of reconciling the nation as quickly as possible and enacted many statutes, policies and laws toward those efforts. Backed by some of the new policies, statutes and laws, African Americans in the South began to vote in election hold elected offices, gain education advancement, rebuild their families and were also given opportunities to reshape their communities. African American efforts were further supported by social welfare reforms passed by the new southern state governments; many of these reforms resulted in making government responsible for some basic needs and outlawing certain exploitative practices. On the other hand, the basic economic system of the South, with wealthy whites holding power over blacks and traditional whites, remained largely unchanged; in many cases, this power/authority relationship even intensified. Although, amendments to the Constitution clearly stipulated civil rights rules and policies for blacks, the federal government remained uncommitted to enforcing them. President Lincoln also advocated the 10 Percent Plan, which allowed southern state governments to reassume control after just one-tenth of the 1860 voting population swore an oath of allegiance to the United States. Upon succeeding President Lincoln in 1865, President Andrew Johnson adopted similarly conservative policies. President Johnson quickly exercised his presidential powers by pardoning rebel leaders, allowed many of them to return back into high office, returned plantation land to its...