Betweenthe years of 1861-1865, the democratic experiment that resulted in the UnitedStates of America, faced her most perilous moment that historians nowrefer to as The Civil War. The Civil War was a battle fought between the Unionstates in the north and the Confederate States in the south, fundamentallyon what place did the institution of slavery belong in the country. At thetime, it had been the bloodiest war in the short existence of the United Statesup until that point. Nearly 260,000 men- over one-fifth of the South’s adultmale population (Foner, Give Me Liberty.2016) died for the Confederate cause. There was also much destructiondone to the Southern states, with a prominent example being William Sherman’scampaign through the Carolinas and Georgia that left the infrastructureand railroads in those horrendous conditions many years after the Civil War hadended. Despite all of the damages, causalities, and destruction brought by theCivil War the American experiment had survived and from 1865-1877 enteredinto an era that historians now refer to as The Reconstruction era.
This era isknown as reconstruction because it was the federal government’s attempt toresolve economic, social, and political problems in the United States and tocreate a new order after the Civil War. Thepolitical issues that the federal government attempted to resolve duringReconstruction were how to deal with the defeated Confederate states and itsconstituents in reintegrating them back into the Union and as well as how todeal with the former slaves. Initially, President Abraham Lincoln had a looseReconstruction vision with limited stipulations to readmit the Confederatestates back into the Union. Unfortunately, President Lincoln was assassinatedin 1865 and his vice-president Andrew Johnson succeeded him.
President’sJohnson policy for Reconstruction was even more lenient than Lincoln’s. Hebelieved that the Confederate states never actually left the Union and asresult, he did not believe that the Confederate states should not be punishedand should be allowed to handle its own affairs. (“”How did AndrewJohnson’s plan for Reconstruction compare to Congress’ plan?.” enotes.com.
enotes, 18 Sep. 2013. Web. 22 Jan. 2018.”) This presidential failureto punish the rebel states was not agreed with by Congress, especially theRadical Republicans in Congress.
Congress took it upon itself to enact its ownReconstruction policy and as a result, the Freedmen’s Bureau was created, thepassage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments that gave African American mentheir freedom, their citizenship, and their right to vote. However, with thepassing of the 15th Amendment, there was another issue that arose. Oneprominent issue that arose during the Reconstruction era was women’s suffrage.When the 15th Amendment was passed it guaranteed that all male citizens couldnot be denied the right to vote based on race, color, or previous servitude.
However, some women saw African American males being granted the right to voteas an opportunity for women to be included as citizens as well. However, manymales were unsupportive of women’s suffrage during Reconstruction as theyseemed more focused on blacks, calling it the “Negro’s hour” (Foner, Give Me Liberty. 2016).
Congressalso passed many laws during Reconstruction that gave African Americans civilrights and protected them from Black Code laws being passed in the South. Forthe first time, African Americans were elected to hold positions in thegovernment. The United States of America, for the first time in its existence,and created an interracial democracy government, a political success for theReconstruction federal government. Anotherarea of success the federal government experienced during the Reconstructionera came when tackling the problem of integrating the former slaves.
Thecreation of the Freedmen’s Bureau happened to “establish schools, provideaid to the poor and aged, settle disputes between whites and blacks and amongthe freed people, and secure for former slaves and white Unionists equaltreatment before the courts” (Foner,Give Me Liberty. 2016). The experiment lasted from 1865-1870 and duringthis time greatly helped blacks achieve growth in education, healthcare, and gavethe opportunity for blacks to build their own religious institutions such, asBaptist and Methodist churches separate from white control. Oneof the most pressing concerns of the federal government immediately after theCivil War was helping millions of newly freed slaves enter into society bycreating a new system to replace slavery. During Reconsideration, former slavesand former slave masters found that their lives had been changed completely.
Some of the economic issues that the newly freed slaves faced were thathad very limited skills outside of manual labor on a plantation ordomestic skills, many could not read or write. The economic issue that formerslave masters faced were a loss of workers to complete the void left by theirformer slaves and submitting to the Northern states’ idea about free labor,which meant that blacks were equal to whites in every sense of the word.However, adjusting to this reality did not come overnight for white southernersas journalist Sidney Andrews discovered, noting that “The white seemswholly unable to comprehend that freedom for the negro means the same thing asfreedom for them. They readily enough admit that the government has made himfree, but appear to believe that they have the right to exercise the sameold control.” (Andrews,Sidney, and Heather Cox. Richardson. TheSouth since the War: as Shown by Fourteen Weeks of Travel and Observation inGeorgia and the Carolinas 2004.
) One of the many failures ofthe federal government during Reconstruction was in 1865 when PresidentJohnson ordered all land owned by the federal government to be returned back toits original owner. This act caused many former slaves to be stuck in povertywith limited options that mostly included sharecropping or tenant farming, withthe Southern whites designing the system to resemble the former institution ofslavery as closely as possible, a failure of the Reconstruction federalgovernment.Inconclusion, while the federal government achieved some political success duringthe Reconstruction era by establishing the Freedmen’s Bureau, making AfricanAmerican men citizens and also establishing their right to vote, the federalgovernment also failed such as by not granting newly freed slaves landownership. Some issues the federal government did not attempt to resolve at allduring this time, such as women’s suffrage. BibliographyAndrews, Sidney, andHeather Cox.
Richardson. TheSouth since the War: as Shown by Fourteen Weeks of Travel and Observation inGeorgia and the Carolinas 2004.””How did AndrewJohnson’s plan for Reconstruction compare to Congress’ plan?.” enotes.com. enotes, 18 Sep.2013.
Web. 22 Jan. 2018. com/homework-help/how-did-andrew-johnsons-plan-reconstruction-454507>.Foner, Eric, 1943- author. Give Me Liberty! : an AmericanHistory. New York :W.W. Norton & Company, 2014. Print.
com/homework-help/how-did-andrew-johnsons-plan-reconstruction-454507>.Foner, Eric, 1943- author. Give Me Liberty! : an AmericanHistory. New York :W.W.
Norton & Company, 2014. Print.