The Reconstruction Era
The Civil War was one of the bloodiest wars in American history. Its damage to America was profound. It tore at the very fiber of America itself. The Reconstruction Era however was as damaging to America as the Civil War itself. Its damage has its roots in the reasons America went to civil war. In the time leading up to the Civil War the south was unhappy so they decided to leave the Union. They thought it was okay to leave if they were unhappy, while the North thought it was wrong. So the two sides went to war. After all was said and done the North had won and now faced the difficult task of reincorporating the South in to the Union once again, as well as rebuilding the South after being torn apart by the war. It was widely believed that Reconstruction was successful, when in fact, as stated by Eric Foner, it was a complete failure. It changed very little in the South.
After the Civil War, America was a nation in crisis. The crisis that was faced by all America tore deep in to everyday life. The crisis faced by Congress was what to do with the states that had left the Union. How should they be let in; should they be let in at all; what do they have to do in order to be readmitted in to the Union? These were some of the questions that came before congress along with how they could keep the rebel leaders out of power to prevent this from happening again. If the Confederate leaders were to be left alone would they try to rebel once again?
Another problem faced by America was the fact that Abraham Lincoln was dead and now Andrew Johnson was President. Neither the North nor the South liked him. His policies on Reconstruction upset so many that Congress attempted to impeach him, falling short by one vote on the necessary 2/3 of Congress needed to impeach a president. Johnson was a Southerner who was in office when the war broke out, got caught going against the South. This immediately alienated him from the South, while during Reconstruction Johnson pardoned many of the Confederate leaders Congress desired to punish. That alienated him from the North.
Of course the big problems of Reconstruction were that the North and South were at odds against each other. They did not like one another nor did they care about what happened to the other side. Actually the North had an interest in seeing the South become more industrial like the North. With that there was the problem of the freedmen, the Southerners did not see them as part of society and treated them as such. In the beginning of Reconstruction, the blacks were able to take part in government and even hold office, but due to the failings of Johnson’s Reconstruction policy, the plantation owners who were once in control before were now in power again. So in reality after a couple of years the South had not changed one bit.
Black oppression continued after the war, with the passing of the 14th amendment blacks were to be given the right to vote. But the Southern whites found ways to rob the
Freedmen out of their right to vote. The set up literacy tests and came up with Grandfather rules and things of that nature. They used any means necessary to prevent blacks from voting. The whites even separated schools and fountains and other public places. They even used fear to intimidate blacks in to submission; this is where the Ku Klux Klan came in. They were started as a southern fraternity that evolved in to a hate club, for lack of a better term. They sought to get rid of all that were not true southerners. They killed, beat, and tortured openly and willingly. They had political backing and in some towns even decided the outcome of elections. They were allowed to do all of their activities because they epitomized what Southerners at the time believed. They became popular because of the animosity displayed by each side.
Reconstruction was an utter failure that caused many problems for America in the years that followed. Reconstruction never really was finished until the 1960’s with the Civil Rights Acts. In reconstruction the economy of the South should have been rebuilt, when in fact it never really recovered form the Civil War. Only recently has the South begun making major leaps and bounds in their economy. The southern politics should have changed too, but never really did because of the fact that the same people came to power soon after the war. And as a result of the same people being in power in politics, society never changed either. As a result Reconstruction never really happened.
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