Studying the History of the United States after the Civil War
The essence of studying the history of the United States is for the sake of understanding what has previously worked and what has not worked. Moreover, history has a bearing indicating how people behave the way they are behaving today. To this effect, one can appreciate the existence of some institutions, social relations and the cultural values we have today.
The histories we learn have impacted in our lives since they explain the beginnings of some of the ideas we have today and, as such, they serve as to shape one into becoming an active member of the American history.
Basically, the rationale behind acquiring knowledge about the history of the past is because one will stand at a better position to understand the people and the societies we live in today and, hence, appreciate them. History as an “art and a source of entertainment serves a real purpose, on aesthetic grounds but also on the level of human understanding” (Deloria and Salisbury 34).
The most remarkable personal event in my life traces back to the days when I was a teenager. Our family was big and, as such, the little food brought on the table was always scrambled for. This strengthened my mentality because I grew up knowing that the world is not a bed of roses and one needs to hustle in order to survive.
With respect to administrative matters, the approach in this class is to learn about historical institutions, people and events. As such, this constitutes what is termed as concrete learning. Moreover, one needs to understand a given context and accurately interpret it in what is termed as reflective interpretations.
Reconstructing the United States after the Civil War
In 1863, the African Americans were set free in the rebel states courtesy of emancipation proclamation. This was a result of the thirteenth amendment of the constitution which emancipated all the USA slaves as an aftermath of the Civil War. The citizenship of the freed black population was still a major challenge to the nation even after the emancipation proclamation. However, the reconstruction that was implemented by the congress was short-lived (1866-1877).
After the Civil War, people needed to be enlightened. They were illiterate and therefore black and white teachers, churches and schools had a great role to play in educating the people.
The way of governance was also to be reconstructed through the amendment of the constitution to provide for democracy and human rights that would enable them to vote, own land, employ them to raise their living standards and enable them to access public utilities. The refuges were to be located and united with their families. Basic needs such as food and medicine were to be provided.
Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson encouraged moderate reconstruction. Lincoln’s 10% plan with malice toward none; charity for all helped heal the nation’s wounds. He also pardoned the ex-confederates except the high ranking military or civilian authorities. The former confederates’ states ratified the 13th amendment which banned slavery or involuntary servitude except for a punishment against crime where the party is duly convicted.
The 1862 Railroad Act, Homestead Act, and Morril Land Grant Act reconstructed the west by allowing the federal land to be given to the current and future states, thus, creating public-funded agricultural and mechanical colleges. The federal land policy reforms championed for railroad development, settlement, education and, hence, promots individualism among Native Americans.
As a southern conservative and a freed slave living in Alabama following the Civil War, I would live in fear due to the increased violence and infringement into my rights by the state. Workers are losing jobs and protesting as railroads get shut down and services limited. Poverty levels are very high in the society with oppression as ‘Black codes’ were only introduced to replace the word slave for the freedmen (Deloria and Salisbury 98).
In order to promote commerce and encourage migration, the congress passed the 1682 Railroad Act which facilitated the construction of the first Trans-continental Railroad in the 1869 and two additional routes in both north and south completed in 1880s. Railroads were also rebuilt in the south following the Civil War.
Northern industry was supported by the federal and state governments by providing loans, subsidies and tax exemptions. Coal mining and iron processing in the south were expanded and steel production in Birmingham, Alabama introduced. Railroads facilitated transportation of goods, movement of people thus promoting settlement through employment and raised the living standards.
Commerce and Industrialization in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries
Industrialization played a big role in people’s lives through job creation and hence raised the living standards. People came up with new ideas that became the driving force of mechanization. In the United States, “the first factory system appeared in Waltham and Lowell in the 1810s and 1820s in the textile industry” (Foner 76).
The factory system “then spread to the chemical and metallurgical industries in the 1840s and to all market-oriented industries by the 1860s and 1870s” (Foner 80). This American model of “manufacturing including mass manufacture by power-driven machinery and interchangeable parts was dominated by machine processes” (Foner 81). Industrialization also resulted into people organizing themselves into trade unions.
Incorporation resulted into nation-wide businesses that were able to do large-scale production of commodities as well as acquire their raw material at a low cost. They also had a bargaining power for low transportation costs. They also had to contract to ensure that they constantly kept running all the year round. Changes related to “technology in manufacturing practices resulted to increased production of goods through standardization of productive operations” (Foner 80).
This resulted into a large class of operators of machines in American factories who generally had lower skills compared to craft production workers (Foner 80). Corporations came up with agreements to set up prices and address labor issues. They also bought small business or drove them out of business through horizontal or vertical integration.
Bonanza farms were mainly owned by railroads where most of them got bigger and richer with people migrating into large crowded cities. Farmers and their officials began to get active and started electing government officials in 1870s. In 1880s, farmers alliances proposed legislation to help farmers and, in 1890, they formed a third party.
Knights of labor allowed any worker to join and focus on both social and political issues as well as working conditions. On the other hand, American Federation of labor limited their membership to skilled trades, work places, wages, hours and working conditions. Other unions called for moderate and radical socialism including government regulation of economy and ownership of all production means (Deloria and Salisbury 103).
The labor force mainly comprised of women and children who were engaged in most dangerous jobs. There was also labor violence whereby levelers who had appeared in the early 19th century went into factories and beat machines with iron poles. Long working hours with poor wages led to increased poverty levels and hence made it necessary for trade union formation.
The Italian immigrants are believed to have come out of their harsh working conditions only through the formed trade unions. The hard laboring life of 10-12 hours a day for 6 days in a week led to poor living standards of the working folks.
Cooperate tycoons protected their industrial consolidation through vertical and horizontal and vertical integration of businesses through communication and advertisement. Social philosophy, also known as Darwinism, was also used to defend the success of wealthy men. Such a consolidation was biased in maintaining the wealthy businessmen while suppressing the small businesses.
It is for this reason that the Congress passed the Interstate Commerce Act (1886) and the Sherman anti-Trust Act (1890) which outlawed trusts and pools. A factory worker would have the operations shut due to poor working conditions, admission of children and women into their labor force.
Challenges of Urbanization in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
Making a living in the 19th and 20th centuries was not easy. This was attributed to hard economic times that had hit both Europe and US. The availability of employment in industries attracted a mass of people in the cities of America. This resulted in a sudden increase in the urban population from 10 to 54 million between 1870 and 1920. This caused revitalization of cities and problems that had influenced the urban poor population negatively.
Both the urban poor and rural dwellers needed reforms. Many aspects of their lives needed reform. The urban population experienced challenges such as poor housing, inefficient transportation means, lack of safe drinking water, poor sanitation, and increased crime and fire incidences. On the other hand, the rural dwellers looked forward to improved infrastructure, e.g. roads, schools, bridges and hence a better living standards.
The original constitution vested powers on the legislatures and governors to elect senators directly. It is after the amendment in 1913 that the senators were directly elected by the people and thus the federal government became more democratic as it touched people’s lives directly (Jones 768).
Christian Approach Reforms championed for the settlement of citizens since few reformers established settlement houses. Public education enhanced change to the people to think ethically and thus changed institutions. The Socialist Approach focused on reforming the government healthier and safe neighborhoods. They wanted to change institutions moderately or radically and make people think and act ethically. It addressed the problem of crime.
Deloria, Philip and Neal Salisbury. A companion to American Indian history. Logan: Utah State UP, 2004. Print.
Foner, Eric. Politics and Ideology in the Age of the Civil War. Boston: Allyn, 1980. Print.
Jones, Howard. Abraham Lincoln and a New Birth of Freedom: The Union and Slavery in the Diplomacy of the Civil War. Denver: MacMurray, 1999. Print.