I. The Problems of Peace
- After the war, there were many questions over what to do with the
free Blacks, such as how to reintegrate the Southern
states into the
Union, what to do with Jefferson Davis, and who would be in charge of
- The Southern way of life had been ruined, as crops and farms were
destroyed, the slaves had been freed, the cities
were burnt down, but
still, and many Southerners remained defiant.
II. Freedmen Define Freedom
- At first, the freed Blacks faced a confusing situation, as many slave owners re-enslaved their slaves after Union troops
- Other planters resisted emancipation through legal means, citing
that emancipation wasn’t valid until local or
- Some slaves loyally stuck to their owners while others let out
their pent-up bitterness by pillaging their former masters’
property, and even whipping the old master.
- Eventually, even resisting plantation owners had to give up their
slaves, and afterwards tens of thousands of Blacks
took to the roads to
find new work or look for lost loved ones.
- The church became the focus of the Black community life in the years following the war.
- Emancipation also meant education for Blacks, but despite all the
gains Blacks made, they still faced severe discrimination
have to wait a century before truly attaining their rights.
III. The Freedman’s Bureau
- In order to train the unskilled and unlettered freed Blacks, the
Freedman’s Bureau was set up on March 3, 1865.
Oliver O. Howard headed it.
- The bureau taught about 200,000 Blacks how to read (its greatest
success), since most former slaves wanted to narrow
the literary gap
between them and Whites; the bureau also read the word of God.
- However, it wasn’t as effective as it could have been, as
evidenced by the further discrimination of Blacks,
and it expired in
1872 after much criticism by racist Whites.
IV. Johnson: The Tailor President
- Andrew Johnson came from very poor and humble beginnings, and he
served in Congress for many years (he was the only
congressman not to leave Congress when the rest of the South seceded).
- He was feared for his reputation of having a short temper and being
a great fighter, was a dogmatic champion of states’
the Constitution, and he was a Tennessean who never earned the trust of
the North and never regained the
confidence of the South.
V. Presidential Reconstruction
- Since Abraham Lincoln believed that the South had never legally
withdrawn from the Union, restoration was to be relatively
his plan for restoring the union, the southern states could be
reintegrated into the Union if and when they
had only 10% of its voters
pledge and taken an oath to the Union, and also acknowledge the
emancipation of the slaves;
it was appropriately called the Ten Percent
Plan. Like the loving father who welcomed back the prodigal son,
plan was very forgiving to the South.
- The Radical Republicans felt punishment was due the South for all
the years of strife. They feared that the leniency
of the 10 %
Plan would allow the Southerners to re-enslave the newly freed Blacks,
so they rammed the Wade-Davis
Bill through Congress. It required 50% of
the states’ voters to take oaths of allegiance and demanded
safeguards for emancipation than the 10% Plan.
- However, Lincoln pocket-vetoed the bill by letting it expire, and the 10% Plan remained.
- It became clear that there were now two types of Republicans: the
moderates, who shared the same views as Lincoln and
the radicals, who
believed the South should be harshly punished.
- Sadly though, Lincoln was assassinated. This left the 10% Plan’s future in question.
- When Andrew Johnson took power, the radicals thought that he would
do what they wanted, but he soon proved them wrong
by basically taking
Lincoln’s policy and issuing his own Reconstruction proclamation:
certain leading Confederates
were disfranchised (right to vote
removed), the Confederate debt was repudiated, and states had to ratify
the 13th Amendment.
VI. The Baleful Black Codes
- In order to control the freed Blacks, many Southern states passed
Black Codes, laws aimed at keeping the Black population
and workers in the fields; some were harsh, others were not as harsh.
- Blacks who “jumped” their labor contracts, or walked
off their jobs, were subject to penalties and fines,
and their wages
were generally kept very low.
- The codes forbade Blacks from serving on a jury and some even
barred Blacks from renting or leasing land, and Blacks
punished for “idleness” by being subjected to working on a
- Making a mockery out of the newly won freedom of the Blacks, the
Black Codes made many abolitionists wonder if the
price of the Civil
War was worth it, since Blacks were hardly better after the war than
before the war. They were not
“slaves” on paper, but in
reality, their lives were little different.
VII. Congressional Reconstruction
- In December, 1865, when many of the Southern states came to be
reintegrated into the Union, among them were former
Democrats, and most Republicans were disgusted to see their former
enemies on hand to reclaim seats
- During the war, without the Democrats, the Republicans had passed
legislation that had favored the North, such as the
Morrill Tariff, the
Pacific Railroad Act, and the Homestead Act, so now, many Republicans
didn’t want to give
up the power that they had gained in the war.
- Northerners now realized that the South would be stronger
politically than before, since now, Blacks counted for a
instead of just 3/5 of one, and Republicans also feared that the
Northern and Southern Democrats would
join and take over Congress and
the White House and institute their Black Codes over the nation,
defeating all that
the Civil War gained.
- On December 6, 1865, President Johnson declared that the South had
satisfied all of the conditions needed, and that
the Union was now
VIII. Johnson Clashes with Congress
- Johnson repeatedly vetoed Republican-passed bills, such as a bill
extending the life of the Freedman’s Bureau,
and he also vetoed
the Civil Rights Bill, which conferred on blacks the privilege of
American citizenship and struck
at the Black Codes.
- As Republicans gained control of Congress, they passed the bills
into laws with a 2/3 vote and thus override Johnson’s
- In the 14th Amendment, the Republicans sought to instill the same
ideas of the Civil Rights Bill: (1) all Blacks were
(2) if a state denied citizenship to Blacks, then its representatives
in the Electoral College were
lowered, (3) former Confederates could
not hold federal or state office, and (4) the federal debt was
the Confederate one was repudiated (erased).
- The radicals were disappointed that Blacks weren’t given the
right to vote, but all Republicans agreed that states
accepted back into the Union unless they ratified the 14th Amendment.
IX. Swinging ‘Round the Circle with Johnson
- In 1866, Republicans would not allow Reconstruction to be carried
on without the 14th Amendment, and as election time
wanted to lower the amount of Republicans in Congress, so he began a
series of ‘Round the
- However, as he was heckled by the audience, he hurled back insults,
gave “give ‘em hell” speeches,
denounced the radicals, and in the process, he gave Republicans more
men in Congress than they had before—the
opposite of his original
X. Republican Principles and Programs
- By then, the Republicans had a veto-proof Congress and nearly
unlimited control over Reconstruction, but moderates
and radicals still
couldn’t agree with one another.
- In the Senate, the leader of the radicals was Charles Sumner, long
since recovered from his caning by Preston Brooks,
and in the House,
the radical leader was Thaddeus Stevens, an old, sour man who was an
unswerving friend of the Blacks.
- The radicals wanted to keep the South out of the Union as long as
possible and totally change its economy and the moderates
quicker Reconstruction. What happened was a compromise between the two
XI. Reconstruction by Sword
- The Reconstruction Act of March 2, 1867 divided the South into five
military zones, temporarily disfranchised tens
of thousands of former
Confederates, and laid down new guidelines for the readmission of
states (Johnson had announced
the Union restored, but Congress had not
yet formally agreed on this).
- All states had to approve the 14th Amendment, making all Blacks citizens.
- All states had to guarantee full suffrage of all male former slaves.
- The 15th Amendment, passed by Congress in 1869, gave Blacks their right to vote.
- In the case Ex parte Milligan (1866), the Supreme Court ruled that
military tribunals could not try civilians, even
during wartime, if
there were civil courts available.
- By 1870, all of the states had complied with the standards of
Reconstruction, and in 1877, the last of the states were
home rule back, and Reconstruction ended.
- The end of Reconstruction was part of the Compromise of
1877—the two presidential candidates were at a stalemate
only way to break the stalemate was with a deal. In the deal, the North
got their president (Rutherford B. Hayes)
and the South got the
military to pull-out (abandon?) the South and the former slaves, thus
XII. No Women Voters
- Women suffrage advocates were disappointed by the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, since they didn’t give women
- After all, women had gathered petitions and had helped Blacks gain their rights.
- Frederick Douglass believed in the women’s movement, but believed that it was now “the Negro’s hour.”
- As a result, women advocates like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan
B. Anthony campaigned against the 14th and 15th
that inserted the word male into the
Constitution for the first time ever.
XIII. The Realities of Radical Reconstruction in the South
- Blacks began to organize politically, and their main vehicle was the Union League.
- It became a network of political clubs that educated members in
their civic duties and campaigned for Republican candidates,
even built Black churches and schools, represented Black grievances,
and recruited militias to protect Blacks.
- Black women attended the parades and rallies of Black communities.
- Black men also began to hold political offices, as men like Hiram
Revels and Blanche K. Bruce served in Congress (they
- Southern Whites hated seeing their former slaves now ranking above
them, and they also hated “scalawags,”
Southerners who were
accused of plundering Southern treasuries and selling out the
Southerners, and “carpetbaggers,”
Northerners accused of
parasitically milking power and profit in a now-desolate South.
- One could note that Southern governments were somewhat corrupted during these times.
XIV. The Ku Klux Klan
- Extremely racist Whites who hated the Blacks founded the
“Invisible Empire of the South,” or Ku Klux Klan,
Tennessee in 1866—an organization that scared Blacks into not
voting or not seeking jobs, etc… and often
resorted to violence
against the Blacks in addition to terror.
- This radical group undermined much of what abolitionists sought to do.
XV. Johnson Walks the Impeachment Plank
- Radical Republicans were angry with President Johnson, and they decided to try to get rid of him.
- In 1867, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act, which provided
that the president had to secure the consent of the
removing his appointees once they had been approved by the Senate (one
reason was to keep Edwin M. Stanton,
a Republican spy, in office).
- However, when Johnson dismissed Stanton early in 1868, the Republicans impeached him.
XVI. A Not-Guilty Verdict for Johnson
- Johnson was not allowed to testify by his lawyers, who argued that
the Tenure of Office Act was unconstitutional and
Johnson was acting
under the Constitution, not the law.
- On May 16, 1868, Johnson was acquitted of all charges by a single
vote, as seven Republican senators with consciences
“not-guilty” (interestingly, those seven never secured a
political office again afterwards).
- Die-hard radicals were infuriated by the acquittal, but many
politicians feared establishing a precedence of removing
XVII. The Purchase of Alaska
- In 1867, Secretary of State William H. Seward bought Alaska from
Russia to the United States for $7.2 million, but
most of the public
jeered his act as “Seward’s Folly” or
- Only later, when oil and gold were discovered, did Alaska prove to be a huge bargain.
XVIII. The Heritage of Reconstruction
- Many Southerners regarded Reconstruction as worse than the war
itself, as they resented the upending of their social
and racial system.
- The Republicans, though with good intentions, failed to improve the
South, and the fate of Blacks would remain poor
for almost another
century before the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s secured
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