There were many problems thatexisted at the conclusion of the Civil War.The South was in much worse shape than the North. Much of the South had been destroyed by fighting and by total war. Newly freed slaves were unsure oftheir status and how to begin a new life.Many people, black and white, werehomeless and starving after the war destroyed their homes.
President Lincoln was hoping that if the South rejoined the Union quickly, wounds between North and South could begin to heal. In December of 1863, Lincoln proposed the Ten Percent Plan.As soon as 10% of a Confederate state’s voters (white men) swore an oath of loyalty to the U.S. government, that state could begin to organize a new state government. These new state governments had to agree to outlaw slavery as part of their Constitutions. After these things were done, the new states could once againjoin the U.S. government and be represented in Washington D.C. Lincoln also planned to give amnesty, or a group pardon to Confederates who took the oath. High ranking members of the Confederate government or the Confederate military were not included in the pardon.
After Lincoln proposed his plan, Congressproposed their own plan called the Wade- Davis Bill. Congress’s proposal called for 50% of thevoters (white men) of a former Confederate state to sign an oath of loyalty to the U.S. government. Anyone who had voluntarily (Some slaves were forced as were people who weredrafted) to fight for the Confederacy would not be allowed to choose the people who would write their state’s constitution. Lincoln disapproved of this bill (proposed law), so it never became law.
Lincoln hoped to build up the Republican Party in the New South by remaining “soft” and lenient with the South as it moved toward rejoining the country.A group of Republicans known as the Radical Republicans did not want to let the South off so easy.The Radicals wanted to be strict to the South, making sure those who led the South out of the country once could never get the power to do it again.
One thing that had to be done quickly was reach out to all of the freedmen (freed slaves) and other people suffering from the war. The Freedmen’s Bureau was set up in March of 1865 to help those who were starving, homeless, and jobless because of the war.
Freedmen were able to go to schools that were set up by the Freedmen’s Bureau. African American communities were so in need of schools that they would raise money to pay a teacher themselves.Most teachers were white womenbut some African American women also taught. Southern states did not haveeducation systems so the schools of the Freedmen’s Bureaueducated as many whites as it did blacks.
Lincoln is murdered President Lincoln had hoped that by 1865 most of the war and its ugliness was behind him.Lincoln planned to see the country reunited when his life was cut short on April 14, 1865. While watching a play in Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. called “Our American Cousin,” Lincoln was shot inthe back of the head by John Wilkes Booth, an actor and a man who had supported the Confederacy. Lincoln died a few hours after being shot.Booth was hunted down until he was trapped in a barn while hiding and killed by police. Lincoln’s body was taken back to Illinois by train for a funeral, attended by thousands of people.Vice President Andrew Johnson became President upon LINCOLN ASSASSINATION Lincoln’s death, as ordered in the U.S. Constitution. LINCOLN ASSASSINATION
Andrew Johnson was a Democrat from Tennessee. He was one of the few southernDemocrats who had stayed loyal tothe Union when the Civil War broke out.Many people thought Johnson was going to be much tougher on theSouth than Lincoln had planned on being.Reconstruction would now be in the hands of a new man who was just days on the job.
The 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery throughout the United States. It would now be against federal law to own someone as a slave, or to force them into labor.The 13th Amendment also gave Congress the power to make laws to make sure the amendment was followed.
Like President Lincoln, President Johnsonproposed a more lenient Reconstruction plan toward the South.He wanted to issue amnesty to most of the ex-Confederates.The South would be allowed to reorganize new state governments with only one major condition. Each ex-Confederate state would have to ratify the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Most states had done what Johnson had asked by December of 1865, and when Congress met many former Confederate leaders were part of the United States government.
Congress did not like the way Johnson had tried to bring the South back into the Union. Congress refused to seatthe newly elected southern representatives and senators who had just recently been members of the Confederate government and military. It also decided to form a committee to look into how the South should be handled.
After the 13th Amendment was passed,there would be no going back to slavery.The South thought of ways however to try to bring back as much of slavery as they could without actually calling it slavery. The Black Codes were used in the South to control the actions of African Americans. These codes forbid African Americansfrom things like voting, serving on juries,or to be forced to work for people if they couldn’t pay their debts. These codes would lead the Radical Republicans in Congress to begin topropose taking a much harder line on the South.
The President and Congress disagreed over how African Americans in the South should be treated. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was passed to givecitizenship to African Americans, making sure everyone except Native Americans were considered citizens. President Johnson vetoed the bill, preventing it from becoming a law.Congress overrode his veto, making the Civil Rights Act of 1866 a law without his consent.
With the Civil Rights Act of 1866 passed without the President signing it, onlythe Supreme Court could stop the Act from remaining a law. To make sure this did not happen, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed.This amendment ensures that anyoneborn or naturalized in the U.S. (process to become a citizen) are citizens.It also said that states can do nothing to take away these rights. This amendment would becomeimportant in helping African Americans fight for civil rights in the 1960’s.
After the Black Codes and violence continued in the South through 1866, the Radical Republicans convinced Congress to be strict on the South.By 1867, Reconstruction had been taken over by Congress and was called “Radical Reconstruction.”The Reconstruction Act of 1867 dissolved any southern state government who would not approve of the 14th Amendment. These states were divided into 5 militarydistricts, each governed by a Union general. Each of these states would have to write another new constitution that ratified(approved) of the 14th Amendment and give African Americans the right to vote.
The Radical Republicans realized that President Johnson was not going to help them be tough on the South.The Radicals wanted to impeach, or remove from office, the President.The President can be removed from office for treason, bribery, or other “high crimes or misdemeanors.” Johnson had ignored the Tenure of Office Act, which was set up to protect theappointments of Abraham Lincoln from being fired. Johnson fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton without the permission of Senate, which allowed Congress to try and impeach him for breaking the law.
Republican candidate General Ulysses S. Grant was electedPresident of the United States in 1868. Grant won support in the North and the South where the military made sure thatAfrican Americans could vote safely.Most African Americans voted Republican. Grant continuedReconstruction, taking control back from the Radical Republicans.
The 15th Amendment to the Constitution made sure that the right to vote could not be denied for reasons like “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” This made sure African Americans men would be able to vote. This did not guarantee the right to vote for any women, black or white.The South responded by adding property restrictions to voting, ensuring newly freed African Americans would still have a hard time voting.
Because African Americans were allowed to vote, more and more Republicans were elected in the South. These Republicans helped to write new constitutions for the southern states and Congress welcomed new southern Republicans to join them. African Americans began to win elections at the local and state level. Hiram Revels and Blanche Bruce were elected to the U.S. Senate.
Three major groups of people helped to buildup the Republican governments in the South: 1. Scalawags were the whites in the South who had opposed the South seceding from the U.S. in the first place. 2. Freedmen (freed slaves) supported the Republicans who helped them win their freedom.3. Carpetbaggers were northern whites who moved south to start businesses or run for political offices.They were called this because of their cheap suitcases that they put their belongings in because they rushed to the South.
Southern Whites who had supported the Confederacy and whowanted to maintain slavery were slowly being denied political power. To make sure they were able to show their unhappiness, these southerners formed secret societies in the South. The most popular was the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) started by Nathan Bedford Forrest, an ex-Confederate general.The KKK would try to terrorize African Americans to keep them from voting.They burnt crosses, whipped, tortured, and killed African Americans.Congress passed the Ku Klux Klan Acts to make sure violence couldn’t be used against voters.While the KKK was forced to dissolve, fewer African Americans voted as a result.
African Americans built their own schools during Reconstruction.Academies, schools with special training, were set up and grew into African American colleges in the South. African Americans and whites went to different schools, very few were integrated.African Americans wanted land to farm, but couldn’t afford it.Most became sharecroppers, who rented land and paid their rent with a percentage of their crops each year.Most sharecroppers had little left over to pay their debts or feed their families.
There were several reasons why Reconstruction ended:1. The Republican Party became less popular.2. The Democrats began to “redeem” the South. 3. Rutherford B. Hayes was elected President in 1876.
As the Civil War crept further into thepast, people wanted to focus on their own lives and cared less about Reconstruction. President Grant’s administration wascorrupt, and many of the men he put in office were not trustworthy. The Republicans became less popular as a result.
Many people in both the North and South wanted the federaltroops and military districts to end in the South. Democrats began to run forelection and started to win in the South, taking back the state governments from the Republicans. African American rights were threatened with each Democrat elected. Societies like the KKK helped to make sure African Americans didn’t feel safe voting.
After 8 years of Grant being President, Rutherford B. Hayes waselected President in 1876.The election was disputed (winner was not agreed on). Republicans and Democrats made a deal that allowed Hayes to become President inexchange for his promise to end Reconstruction. Upon his inauguration, Hayes ordered all federal troops out of the South,leaving African Americans to fend for themselves.
The South began to grow again during Reconstruction. Cotton and tobacco production began to soar again.The textile (cloth) industry grewquickly using southern cotton to create new products. Mills and factories sprung up toproduce new materials the South didn’t have in the past.This “New South” was not just a cotton producer, but an industrial center.
With the Republicans out of power and the U.S. Army gone, the South began to go back towards its former glory. Laws known as Jim Crow Laws were passed to take away rights from African Americans. Poll taxes were passed to keep poor African Americans from voting.Literacy tests were used to keep African Americans who could not read from voting.The grandfather clause allowed poor whites or whites that couldnot read to vote. It said anyone who had a grandfather eligible to vote could vote without passing the poll or literacy test. Laws were also passed that segregated (separated) whites andblacks. Each would have separate hospitals, schools, restaurants, cemeteries, parks, etc. Blacks also had to give up or take the back seats on trains and streetcars.
In 1869 the Supreme Court said that segregation was legal. In the court case Plessy v. Ferguson, Homer Plessy wasarrested for sitting in a train car that was for whites only. When Plessy was arrested, he sued saying the 13th and 14th Amendments were being violated. Eventually the Supreme Courtwould say that segregation was legal, but only if facilities for blacks and whites wereequivalent (separate but equal).