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Reconstruction Essay

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Updated: Dec 15th, 2019

Introduction

The American civil war marked a major turning point in the history and development of the United States. From the years 1863-1877, issues relating to the civil war, confederacy, slavery and handling of the freed black men dominated the country’s history. Reconstruction therefore represented a return to the Union of the southern states that had seceded and treatment of the freed slaves and confederate leaders1.

The reconstruction took place in three phases namely the Presidential reconstruction of 1863-1866, Radical reconstruction of 1866-1873 and the redemption of 1873-1877. Both Presidents Lincoln and Andrew Johnson played crucial roles in the reconstruction by mainly opposing Republican Party views thus subtly spurring radicalism as well as phenomenal changes in the North and South.

Discussion

President Lincoln and later Johnson set the pace for reconstruction2. Their emphasis by both presidents on a speedy reunion of the country by bringing back the South characterized presidential reconstruction phase. Both presidents’ policies were mostly moderate and found little favor among Radical Republicans in congress. After the radical republicans gained some power in the 1866 elections, radical reconstruction phase mainly led by congress republicans and emphasizing civil and voting rights for freed African-Americans began.

The Redemption or Home rule marked the end of the Congressional phase of reconstruction after it became clear the electorate was getting weary of the radical politics. Additionally, Republicans made a tactical retreat from their radical politics in order to secure support of their federal expansionist policies from southerners and Democrats.

Republicans in congress were mainly the drivers of radical congressional reconstruction3. Republicans dominated congress and their radicalism stemmed from the tussles they had with the presidency on the fate of the South and to what extent republican ideals must apply in the South.

Radical Republican leaders like Senator Charles Sumner fanned the radical congressional reconstruction mainly through the radical Republican faction that sought to use Congress to dictate the re-admission of the South to the Union and also to enforce the republican government ideals on the South including universal freedom for all people.

Though both presidents’ approaches to reconstruction contributed to the rise of radicalism, President Johnson was largely responsible for radicalization of the Republican Party4. Johnson had a bitter tussle with Congress with the President regularly vetoing radical Republican backed bills and Congress overriding the vetoes.

Johnson angered and emboldened even further the Radical Republican Party by adopting a near unilateral approach in the South’s readmission to the Union. In particular, Johnson’s plan to offer amnesty and restoration of property to Southerners and admission of the Southern States under lenient terms led to a near return to slavery in the South5.

The Creation of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction and Passage, empowerment and extension of Freedman’s Bureau and passage of the Civil Rights Bill in 1866 by Congress were direct challenges to the President’s plan, which led to a bitter relationship between the two institutions culminating in the 1866 election when radical Republicans took power.

Both Presidents Lincoln and Andrew Johnson played crucial roles in the reconstruction by mainly opposing radical Republican Party views thus subtly spurring radicalism as well as phenomenal changes in the North and South. Both the North and South stubbornly stuck to their beliefs and values.

Though the two sides reached consensus, their respective values persisted for a long time but within a larger framework of the USA. It is safe to conclude that the presidents and the radical Congress helped save the basic ideals of the USA thorough reconstruction.

Bibliography

Henretta, James and Brody, David. America: A Concise History. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009.

Nolen, Claude. African American Southerners in Slavery, Civil War and Reconstruction. New York: McFarland, 2005.

Footnotes

1 James Henretta and David Brody, America: A Concise History, (New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009), 79-100.

2 Claude Nolen, African American Southerners in Slavery, Civil War and Reconstruction (New York: McFarland, 2005), 55-70.

3 Claude Nolen, African American Southerners in Slavery, Civil War and Reconstruction (New York: McFarland, 2005), 104-110.

4 Claude Nolen, African American Southerners in Slavery, Civil War and Reconstruction (New York: McFarland, 2005), 66-80.

5 Claude Nolen, African American Southerners in Slavery, Civil War and Reconstruction (New York: McFarland, 2005), 83-107.

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IvyPanda. "Reconstruction." December 15, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/reconstruction-essay/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Reconstruction." December 15, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/reconstruction-essay/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Reconstruction'. 15 December.

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