The Reconstruction Era and Its Effects on Slavery with and After President Lincoln

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The Reconstruction Era and its effects on Slavery with and after President Lincoln

The Reconstruction Era which followed the Civil War was a period marked by a severe effort to re-establish a depleted and distraught society. The war, which was aimed at confronting the national dilemma of slavery, only led to subsequent problems over emancipation and an undefined condition of freedom. Some, who had naively assumed that ending slavery would resolve the problem of racial inequality, overlooked the prejudice and unpleasant feeling towards blacks.

Lincoln’s plan for reconstruction was aimed at reuniting southern states with the union and to strengthen the Republican Party in the South; which were his main supporters. One of the main purposes of Lincoln’s plan for Reconstruction was that all slaves be freed. In Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, he stated that all slaves would be declared free in those states still in rebellion against the United States (Lincoln “Emancipation Proclamation: January 1, 1863”). However, this only pertained to those states which, after that date, came under the military control of the Union Army. It did not concern slaves in states such as Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri and parts of Virginia and Louisiana, that were already occupied by Northern troops. This illustrates Lincoln’s agenda to have as many African Americans as possible enlist in the Union Army.

Under Lincoln’s plan, for a state to be permitted back in the union, voters had to take an oath of loyalty. If 10% of voters took the oath, statehood would be re-established. Foner comments that Lincoln did not recognize emancipation as a social revolution or believe that Reconstruction would bring about social and political changes outside of abolishing of slavery (36). Lincoln’s main objective was political and although he is given credit for “freeing the slaves”, African Americans earned and fought for this right during the Civil War. President Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865 for what was a direct correlation to his freeing of slaves. President Lincoln was a very smart man in that he knew by freeing the slaves, it would further his cause to get the nation under his control.

Andrew Johnson succeeded Lincoln for the Presidency after Lincoln’s unfortunate assassination. Johnson continued Lincoln's moderate policies after Lincoln’s assassination, but ratification in the South of the Black Codes and demand in the North for stricter legislation, resulted in victories for Radical Republicans in the congressional elections of 1866 (Asante and Mattson 110-111). The Black Codes were a new form of slavery that forced restrictions on freed slaves such as barring their right to vote, forbidding them to sit on juries, limiting their right to testify against whites, carrying weapons in public and working in certain jobs.  President Johnson vetoed numerous bills in reference to equality for freed slaves. These bills included the Freedmen’s Bureau and Civil Rights which he vetoed in April 1866 (Foner 247-251). Radical Republicans approved the Civil Rights Bill after Johnson’s veto and were also able to get the Reconstruction Acts passed in 1867 and 1868. Despite these acts, control over Southern state governments was steadily restored when organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan were able to terrify blacks from voting in elections (Asante and Mattson 122).

Once Lincoln was out of the way, Radicals believed they could shape Johnson’s policy. When he disregarded their input they attempted to impeach him in 1968 but failed by one vote. Not condoning President Johnson’s actions but attempting to remove Secretary of War and replaced him someone else was grounds for impeachment. Deeper reasons for his impeachment would be that Johnson was working out in hopes of rectifying the Reconstruction effort and you can’t simply assassinate two Presidents in a row. Radicals such as Ben Butler even endeavored to make a connection between...
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