The Tragedy That Was Reconstruction

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From 1865 to 1877, America faced the daunting task of reconstructing a union tattered by a Civil War. The south after the Civil War was in ruins with many of its major cities completely destroyed, its agriculture production at a halt, and the slave labor that economically drove the south freed. Moreover, millions of freedmen were wondering around the south, lost, without an education, money, place to live, or knowledge of how to care for themselves outside of their plantation. Furthermore, Abraham Lincoln, the moderate Republican president of the union and leader of the War in the north who brought America back together was assassinated April 14, 1865, only five days after Southern General, Robert E. Lee surrendered. With Lincoln gone, the Reconstruction period was left to be led by Lincoln’s War Democrat vice president, Andrew Johnson who was virtually party-less after his democratic fraction party joined with the Republicans during the election of 1864. With Democrat Johnson as president and Congress filled with moderate and radical republicans, there as a constant battle between the two over how Southern Reconstruction should be carried out. Although the federal government accomplished many of its goals for the Reconstruction period, ultimately because many of the reforms carried out during the era were not continued after its end and blacks faced discrimination and abuse by individuals and state governments during the period, Southern Reconstruction was a tragic era. During the Southern Reconstruction period from 1866 to 1877, the federal government was able to establish reforms to satisfy its economic, political, and social goals for the era. One of the major goal and motivation for the Republican north established during the Civil War was to emancipate southern black slaves. After the 13th Amendment (1865) which freed the blacks, the 14th Amendment (1868) that gave freemen an American citizenship, and the 15th Amendment (1870) which protected freedmen’s right to vote, the Republicans not only freed the former slaves but also leveled the national political status of black men to that equal with white men. The radical republicans also “envisioned an expanded role for the national government in protecting the fundamental rights of American citizens” (Doc C) which the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments also provided for, by ruling that states could not deny anyone freedom, citizenship to those born in America, and the right to vote to any citizen male. Moreover, the Republican north upheld the constitutional rule that Supreme Court justices rule for life by not removing from office the southern, democratic majority in the Supreme Court throughout Reconstruction. Congress also attempted to mend the American economy that was broken during the war but passing legislation such as “the Morrill Tariff, the Pacific Railroad Act, and the Homestead Act” (The American Pageant p. 488) which provided a for a economic boost in the north. Furthermore, President Andrew Johnson and Congress both provided plan’s to reconstruct the south and integrate it back into the union. The Reconstruction Proclamation of 1865 which “disfranchised certain leading Confederates, including those with taxable property worth more than $20,000” (p. 486) and Lincoln’s 10% Plan together, formed Johnson’s efforts toward Reconstruction. Likewise, Congress in 1867 passed the Reconstruction Act which divided the south into five military districts “to ensure that blacks would be able to vote and enjoy their other rights as citizens” (Doc B) showing both the executive and legislative branches concern to assimilate the south into the union quickly and effectively. Similarly southern states wrote new, more modern constitutions guided by Republicans that created a “state-funded systems of free public education [and] guaranteed civil and political rights for blacks” (Doc C) illustrating the north’s efforts to rebuild and stabilize the south. Moreover, to protect...
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