Reconstruction policies and problems

If so, then the voters of the South would decide the course of the former Confederacy. In addition, those same voters would decide the content of citizenship in their states. Or were the former Confederate states still states in good standing that would return to their former, pre-war status as soon as southerners elected congressmen, senators, governors? If that were the case, then presumably the southern states, and the definition of citizenship that prevailed in them before the Civil War, would be restored. Northern opinion on this question varied widely.

Abraham Lincoln, before his murder, had recommended the speedy return of the southern states. Lincoln presumed that the reunion of the nation was of paramount importance. While willing to grant presidential pardons to even high-ranking Confederate officers and politicians, Johnson displayed no interest in extending citizenship to former slaves.

Problems of Industrial Sickness

Northerners who had just fought against secession for four years and who had buried hundreds of thousands of wartime casualties refused to tolerate the seating of Confederates in Congress less than a year after the guns fell silent. The issue of African American citizenship provoked equally complex competing views.

White southerners had clear ideas about the social and racial order that would replace slavery; they intended to restrict the rights of citizenship to whites as much as possible. The Codes explicitly denied blacks the right to vote, limited their freedom of movement, and criminalized behavior.

White southerners overplayed their hand. The combination of the harsh Black Codes and the prevalence of Confederates in southern delegations to Congress in the fall of hastened the beginning of what became known as Congressional Reconstruction. The recalcitrance of white Southerners opened Republicans to extending full citizenship to the formerly enslaved.

Reconstruction policies and problems for the south

Congressional Reconstruction thus may be understood as an attempt to prevent white southerners from dictating the outcome of Reconstruction. The only consensus that existed among northern politicians during Reconstruction was that white southerners should not have a free hand, as they had in late and early , to impose their will on the South. The delegates were about a hundred and twenty in number, but crowds of colored citizens were interested spectators through the four days, and the house was always filled full.

They say we don't know what the word constitution means. But if we don't know enough to know what the Constitution is, we know enough to know what justice is. Black southerners did everything within their power to speed the evolution of northern attitudes. Within months of the end of the Civil War former slaves in the South had gathered in conventions to proclaim their vision for their region and their race. Contrasting their devotion to the Union with the treason of their white neighbors, black southerners also stressed that the reconstruction of the former Confederacy could not proceed without their participation.

Most white northerners were reticent to embrace these demands in Within two years white southern intransigence, African American appeals, and political necessity convinced many northern Republicans that extending citizenship to former slaves was a prerequisite for the restoration of the Union.

The era was marked by thwarted progress and racial strife

But how could the guarantees of citizenship be extended to blacks when states had traditionally been the guarantors of rights and the former states of the Confederacy were now controlled by white southerners who championed white supremacy? The resolution of this conundrum was the Military Reconstruction Act It divided the states of the South into military districts under federal military command. No southern state could return to civilian rule until its voters, including black men, framed a state constitution that guaranteed black suffrage.

In addition, each southern state had to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment was multi-purpose constitutional device that was intended to resolve several of the questions hanging over the nation. Most important, it established a constitutional guarantee of basic citizenship for all Americans, including African Americans.

Reconstruction

It is worth pausing for a moment and acknowledging just how extraordinary the developments in —the Military Reconstruction Act and the Fourteenth Amendment—were. The United States made itself unique among modern slave societies when it gave the vote to former slaves almost immediately after emancipation. Whereas elsewhere—Jamaica, Haiti, Brazil, etc.

Once the franchise was extended to blacks through the Military Reconstruction Act, the political mobilization of blacks took place with lightening speed. Throughout Reconstruction, when not deterred by violence, blacks participated in extraordinary numbers in elections. Their turnout in some instances approached 90 percent.

Indeed, because black political mobilization was of paramount importance to the success of the Republican Party, Republicans in Congress pushed for the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment in Despite some glaring loopholes that would be later exploited to restrict the right to vote, the Fifteenth Amendment expanded on the implications of the Fourteenth Amendment and guaranteed the right to vote to all male citizens. The crucial point is that the definition of citizenship in the United States expanded substantially during Reconstruction era and by in principle, all African American men were American citizens.

It would be another half century until comparable rights were extended to black and white women. The participants in Reconstruction fully understood that contests over political and civil rights could not be isolated from the economic reconstruction of the South and the nation. For blacks, the end of slavery of course did not mean the end of work, but rather an end to forced labor.


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Blacks relished the prospect of receiving the benefits of their own labor. But the vast majority of blacks emerged from slavery lacking the ability to buy land and confronted by a white community opposed to extending credit to blacks or to selling them property. At the same time, that whites looked for a system of labor and the Black Codes to bind blacks to the land, as slavery had, freed people coveted land of their own and struggled to be masters of their own time and labor.

Reconstruction | Definition, Summary, & Facts | becalicomfi.ml

Former slave owners in the South were vigilant about protecting their interests. Before the Civil War labor was the key to wealth in the South; after the war land was the key. It was these powerful national and international forces that guaranteed the restored nation had a more unif ied economy than ever before.


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Railroads helped open the South's economy to national forces. Arguably railroads did as much as anything else to stitch the nation back together again. The late s and s were a period of breakneck railroad construction and consolidation. Although it is commonplace to dwell on the completion of a transcontinental rail line in , the extensive reconstruction and expansion of southern railroads destroyed during the Civil War was of equal importance. Northern railroad companies and investors loomed large in these developments. Nothing more dramatically symbolized the emerging integrated national market than the massive regional effort on a single day in when all of the small gauge rail lines in the South were moved several inches wider and realigned with the rail lines of the North.

Country store, Jenkins County, Georgia. Another crucial economic development of the Reconstruction era was the transformation of the southern system of credit. That is, southern planters borrowed against their projected earnings in cotton. This system of credit was shattered by the Civil War, and the South became a credit poor region for decades to come.

White landowners had land but no cash to pay laborers; former slaves had labor but no cash or credit to buy land. As a result, a system of sharecropping emerged in the South that enabled landowners to secure labor and workers to secure access to land. Little if any cash was exchanged in the system of sharecropping; both the landowner and the laborer received cash only at the end of the growing season when harvested cotton was sold at the market. In this new economy, the most important source of credit was the local store where agricultural supplies and food were purchased.

In other words, the local merchant, not some distant British cotton trader, was the immediate source of credit.

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In short, the South was effectively brought into a national system of credit and labor as a result of Reconstruction. Neither serfdom nor peasantry would replace slavery. And southern landowners and freedmen, whether they wanted to or not, were incorporated into the national credit markets.

Let us now take stock of the answers to the questions that we began with. In short, on national terms. Property was not expropriated or redistributed in the South.

Reforms that were imposed on the South—the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, for example—applied to the entire nation. What implications did the Civil War have for citizenship? The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments represented stunning expansions of the rights of citizenship to former slaves. Even during the depths of the Jim Crow era in the early twentieth century, white supremacists never succeeded in returning citizenship to its pre-Civil War boundaries.