There have been conflicting views on how to re-unite the nation and deal with freedmen after the American Civil War. Some scholars were of the opinion that the government should guarantee every state in the South, a republican form of governance.
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However, according to Charles Summer, a radical republican, secession would result into destruction of statehood. On the other hand, Thaddeus Stevens and his followers had the view that secession could not result into re-uniting the nation but instead it could end up awarding undeserving status to certain states which had been newly created (Divine et al., 2011).
President Lincoln who was the leader of moderate republicans started the reconstruction in 1864 with the aim of re-uniting and reconstructing the nation. The ten percent plan began its operations in some states but later faced opposition from the radicals. The republicans were for the view that in order to re-unite the nation, slave power and slavery had to be permanently destroyed.
They further demanded that all kinds of confederate nationalism had to be censored. Moderates supported the view and concluded that the same could be easily accomplished if the Southern states ratified the 13th Amendment and repealed secession in addition to confederate armies surrendering to the authorities. All this aimed at abolishing slavery and uniting the nation. After the assassination of Lincoln, President Johnson used moderate actions to re-unite the nation.
He preferred favoring approximately 170,000 black veterans to vote, which he granted (Divine et al., 2011). This was due to the fact that white southerners were ready to pledge future loyalty for the nation. Wade-Davis Bill of 1864 on the other hand required the rebels to take ironclad oath. They had to swear by the oath that they were never soldiers of the Confederacy. On the other hand, Lincoln did not put much consideration in the past but instead made the voters to swear their loyalty to the established union.
Consequently, voting rights of the freedmen was one of the key elements. This is because, while the radicals wanted the voters to swear by the ironclad oath which prevented all freedmen men from voting, the moderates held the opinion that all freedmen should be allowed to vote without the ironclad oath as a condition. Another view was whether to give blacks the right to vote in uniting the nation. The Northern states denied the blacks the right to vote in the newly established union.
The radicals on the other hand argued that ex-confederates cannot be trusted and therefore they should not be given the right to vote. According to Divine et al (2011), Johnson and Lincoln felt that it was better for the black freedmen especially those from the army to be granted unconditional right to vote in the union. Lincoln was further opposed to the idea of giving voting rights to only individuals who very intelligent and held high ranks during the war. According to Lincoln, this could not result into uniting the nation.
In summing up, it is imperative to reiterate that the Johnson’s government granted freedmen more rights than they had before. For instance, there was the formation of Freedman’s Bureau which protected the rights of blacks. Furthermore, his government abolished the Black Codes by enacting the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Indeed, these were some of the myriad ways on how the nation was re-united.
Divine, T.H.H et al. (2011), American past and present. Boston: Pearson Education.