After the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, formerly enslaved African Americans flocked to the ballot boxes and the more ambitious sought political office. By about 2, black men had won local, state, and federal offices in the former Confederate states. Next Section. In his message to the Confederacy, the President announced his intention to free the slaves in the rebellious states; one hundred days later, he signed the official proclamation.
For more on the history of both proclamations, see James M. Johnson had the second-highest percentage of vetoes overridden Franklin Pierce, who had See Office of the Historian, U. Tennessee, which had rejoined the Union on July 24, , was exempt from the requirements of the Reconstruction Act. Washington, D. Government Printing Office, Featured Search Historical Highlights of the House. Learn about Foreign Leader Addresses. Featured Search the People of the House.
Majority Leaders. Bean Soup! Featured Mace of the U. House of Represen- tatives. A Century of Women in Congress September 11, People Events Institution Objects. Documentaries Interviewees Oral History Transcripts. Featured Shooting in the House Chamber. House Trivia Timeline. Much had also been expected of Southern Unionism, but Southern Unionists turned out to be too bruised, too racist and too willing to strike compromises with the old plantation elite.
However, this could scarcely have been done without the continued maintenance of a sizeable military occupation force — although given that such an occupation force would be responsible for , square miles and 9 million inhabitants, it would have required at least as many troops as were committed to pacifying the West.
As it was, the actual strength of the U. Army had decreased dramatically since the last shots of the war were fired.
Kids History: Civil War Reconstruction
The combined strength of the regular and volunteer forces had fallen between April and January from over 1 million men to just 90, Those who did remain were unenthusiastic about occupation duties. The supreme irony of this gesture was that, before the war, posse comitatus was exactly what slaveholders had been demanding as a mechanism for retrieving fugitive slaves.
It is dubious whether any Congress, Republican or Democrat, would have authorized the spending needed to support an effective army of occupation, capable of suppressing Southern white insurgencies, especially with the awesome debt of the war years looming. Nor was it likely, in simple ideological terms, that Republicans could have been persuaded by anything less than outright civil war or anyone less than Abraham Lincoln to have adopted transitional military dictatorships as an acceptable way of securing republican government for any significant length of time.
American Reconstruction after the Civil War Essay
Military occupations strained both the patience of taxpayers and the ingrained suspicion of military rule in American minds. After the Panic of and the Democratic takeover of the House the following year, the unlikelihood shrank to the vanishing point. If it were possible to establish a scorecard for Reconstruction, the most promising tallies would be the successful restoration of the Union as a federal Union, the legal extirpation of secession as a political tool in settling national disputes, the raising of the freed slaves to citizenship through the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and the avoidance of mass executions and imprisonments.
That Reconstruction fell short of fully implementing most of these accomplishments is its tragedy, and that tragedy can be briefly and bluntly accounted for by six factors: the sheer unpreparedness of the victorious Union to undertake something as unprecedented as a political reconstruction of a third of its territory; the insurgent resistance of the defeated South; the unwillingness to prolong a military occupation to deal with that insurgency; the deaths and removal of the Radical Republican leadership starting with Lincoln ; the resurgence of the Northern Democrats; and, finally, the shortsighted decisions of the federal courts.
It is also possible to say that Reconstruction might have turned out a good deal worse than it did. Both the Civil War and Reconstruction were remarkable for their limited durations.
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By the standard of civil conflict, the American Civil War was comparatively short — the English Civil Wars lasted seven years, and sporadic fighting continued in Scotland and Ireland for another five; the Taiping Rebellion lasted for 14; Sulla was the trigger for continual outbreaks of civil conflict for half a century, down to Octavian and Marc Antony. Indeed, some never seem to find any endpoint.
Origins of Reconstruction
Reflecting on the English Civil Wars, T. I question whether any serious civil war ever does end. Throughout that period English society was so convulsed and divided that the effects are still felt.
Any proper epitaph for Reconstruction must acknowledge that at least it managed to avoid the fate of other post—civil war eras. Merely to call Reconstruction a failure is too simplistic. Reconstruction was overthrown, subverted, and betrayed — and then replicated, since many of the same hesitations over costs, internecine politics, and xenophobia led to dreary repetitions of these mistakes after the First World War and after the two Gulf Wars. In none of those cases would anything but lengthy and expensive occupations have sufficed to reinvent regimes that began conspiring to reverse battlefield defeat before the guns were barely cool; in none of those cases was enough of the country willing to use the force necessary to accompany liberation.
That was our right as a conqueror, and it was a mild penalty for the stupendous crime of treason.