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Civil War Reconstruction: Success or Failure?

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AP US History

06 January 2006

Reconstruction: Failure

The Civil war was possibly the greatest tragedy that this country had ever faced. Years of constant arguing, compromises and cynical ideas about slavery pushed this so called “United Nation” into an atrocious collision between the Northern abolitionists and the Southern proslavery farmers and plantation owners. The nation suffered enormous losses economically and went into a downward spiral. The reconstruction period began with many leaders stepping up to try and fix this crippled country, but it didn’t turn out like everyone hoped. Slavery was still the largest issue and the reconstruction halted because of the disagreements the people faced. After many years of working, compromising and passing laws, the task proved itself to be impossible, as the country remained to be separated. The lack of unity was present because most of the amendments, laws and rules passed during reconstruction were created to protect and ensure the rights of African Americans. However the South continued to promote slavery and “putting blacks in their place” until the 1950’s.

President Lincoln was elected into presidency at a horrible time for the country but he still fought to do the best he could. After the civil war the main focus of Lincoln was to rebuild the North but still keep the South happy. His plans consisted of making the North’s reconstruction a main focal point and distributing 10% of the damages done to the south to aid their reconstruction. President Lincoln thought that the states that seceded last should be given less guilt than the ones who seceded first. He gave more money to Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Virginia and he treated them better because they were the last to secede. Along with his plans for reconstruction came the Radical Republicans who were a small minority in congress. They were very strict on giving all rights to African Americans and wanted to punish the south. All of these ideas and plans for Lincoln were all good ideas and could have been successful but they came to an abrupt end when Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in 1865.

After the tragedy of Lincoln’s death, Vice President Andrew Johnson stepped up into the presidential position and started his own plans for reconstruction; his too, would turn out to be a failure. He supported hardcore Democratic principles and restoring Southern power. He brought in the remaining states back into the constitution. He divided the power of planters and restricted there voting He created the idea of “blanket pardons” which allowed Southern states that had abolished slavery and repealed their articles of secession to re-assume their powers of government and elect representatives to the Congress. This all backfired because while the south was happy and the Blacks weren’t voting under Johnson, the Radical Republicans were angered and more conflict was started. The whole idea of everyone being happy wasn’t working at all with anyone. Johnson was the second to go, being the first impeached president ever.

The third plan to come out was that of the Congress. They were more about punishing the south for what they did and giving black equal rights. Their plan was a failure because they created two major acts that were never passed. They had plans of the Freedmen’s Beauro Act that was a watch for racism and protection of black rights. They also came up with the Civil Rights Act in 1866 that ensured black rights but both of these were not passed. Congress did pass a reconstruction act that revoked the pardons, punished the south and protected the rights of slaves. They also passed the 14th and 15th amendments that gave blacks equal rights and voting rights. All this did was cause chaos in the south because they did believe in it even thought it was an amendment.

The status of an African American was the focal problem of Reconstruction. Slavery had been abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment, but the white people of the south still thought lowly of blacks and thought that they still belonged as slaves. This was shown in the “Black Codes” passed by some of the state legislatures. Northerners regarded these codes as a “Revival of slavery in disguise.” The first state to pass the codes was Mississippi in November of 1865. They were a list of codes that were totally anti-Black rights and restrained many of their rights. This was one of four main events that promoted

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