During the Civil War in America, Abraham Lincoln came up with a plan to reintegrate the Southern States into the Union called the “10 Percent Plan.” The model stated that a state could be reinstated into the Union when ten percent of the 1860 votes cast in that particular state abide by emancipation and take an oath of allegiance to the United States. Lincoln brought the policy that would allow voters to elect delegates who would draft a constitutional amendment so that new state governments could be established. Lincoln assured all Southerners except the slaves of protection over their private properties (Hesseltine 117).
The purpose of Lincoln’s policies was to shorten the war by giving a moderate model for peace. Also, the plan was intended to progress Lincoln’s policy of emancipation by emphasizing the importance of abolishing slavery by the new governments. The reconstructive system of Lincoln was viewed as a way of popularizing his emancipation proclamation, and therefore, the Republicans deemed it as lenient, and they feared that Lincoln’s model was not harsh enough. The reason is that the Republicans wanted the South to be punished because they caused war. The Radical Republicans wanted to control the process of reconstruction, land redistribution, the transformation of the southern society, development of industries, and to guarantee the slaves of their freedom. However, the reconstruction process by Lincoln became a success when the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified in all states (Hesseltine 134).
President Lincoln appeared to favor self-reconstruction by assisting states which enjoy little support from Washington. Lincoln decided to release all Confederates to entreaty to the poor whites. He also guaranteed the protection of private property belonging to southern aristocrats and former plantation owners to obtain acceptance of his policies. Whereas Lincoln did not want to punish the southerners, Radical Republicans, on the other hand, hoped for punitive measures to be meted on the southerners for their guilt of starting the war. President Lincoln wanted Reconstruction process to be short whereby the secessionist could amend the constitution immediately to allow faster reunion. He feared that prolonged conflict would lead to loss of public support, and the South and North may never reunite (Cocca 197).
The Radical Republicans overruled president Lincoln’s reconstruction plan and policies, and they went ahead to pass more stringent Wade-Davis Bill, which obligated fifty percent of the state to pledge their allegiance. The bill also introduced strict requirements for southern states to be reinstated into the Union. However, Lincoln banned the bill. After the assassination of President Lincoln, President Johnson followed Lincoln’s policies, and in the Congress, he proved to be a significant obstacle to the Radical Republicans who wanted to overhaul the economy and the Southern government completely. Although the Radical Reconstruction had stringent punishment demands for the Southern States, they supported the newly freed slaves in their pursuit of social, economic, and political opportunities.
The Congress, through Radical Republicans, sponsored and passed two essential bills in 1986 which include the Civil Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment. These bills enabled African Americans to be recognized as full citizens. From these Amendments and the fight for human rights, it can be noted that the policies of Congress were better relative to those of the Presidency. The final Congressional Reconstruction measure took place in 1875 which was the Civil Rights Act. This Amendment addressed and prohibited discrimination about race in transportation, the process of jury selection, public places such as theaters, inns, and restaurants. However, this Act did not guarantee equality in social areas such as churches, schools, and cemeteries. The Act lacked strong mechanisms for enforcement and implementation. Besides, the Fifteenth Amendment did not give women the right to vote and to take part in critical matters of national importance (Hillstrom 231).
The term Reconstruction was used by the federal government to refer to the process of readmitting the defeated Confederate states into the Union. While all the objectives of Reconstruction were not met, the most significant goal was achieved. During the Reconstruction period, the Confederate states were reinstated into the Union, and the Union victory in the Civil War gave millions of African Americans their freedom from slavery which enabled them to begin their new lives. Also, during this time, the Congress ratified the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments. African Americans were allowed to acquire land, vote, seek employment, and use public accommodations (Prince 79).
Reconstruction help in rebuilding the Southern economy. Many people were killed during the Civil war, and therefore, several southern states were left financially bankrupt. It was through the Reconstruction that the South was able to improve their economy. Moreover, the slaves would no longer offer free labor, but instead, they gained the spending power, implying that they could actively participate in stimulating the southern economy. Also, there was an enormous political success. The fragile country was reunited, the economic damages that the country suffered during the Civil War was repaired, and slavery was abolished altogether.
Despite the successes, Reconstruction failed in some aspects. Lack of political focus contributed to the failure to bring long-term racial integration and to solve sectional wounds. Following the Civil War, there was significant economic prosperity in the North such as industrial inventions and completion of the first transcontinental railroad. This economic boom in the North drew away from the focus of Reconstruction. Reconstruction caused division in the federal government which impeded the achievement of all of its objectives. The 10% plan that was proposed by President Lincoln was abandoned after his assassination, and President Johnson initiated another plan for Reconstruction. There was also division in the Republican Party which had dominated the Congress, and they demanded more reforms that what Johnson had provided. The tension between the Republicans and the President lead to the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson, and it deterred the real progress on readmitting the South into the Union (Prince 83).
Reconstruction did not mean an end to the plight of African American as issues of racial discrimination and inequality continued to be witnessed. Although the Civil Rights Act of 1875 outlawed racial discrimination in hotels, transportation, theaters, and railroads, the law was challenged in court and ruled as invalid. In 1883, the Supreme Court invalidated the Act noting that it addressed social rights and not civil rights. Moreover, the Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibited violation of civil rights by state and not by individual actions. Therefore, the Court upheld the Jim Crow laws which supported racial discrimination, and adopted the “separate but equal doctrine.” These Court rulings hindered the federal government from delivering full freedom to African Americans (Hillstrom 247).
The “black codes” which were passed by the Southern state legislature controlled the behavior of African Americans and former slaves. Also, the Mississippi constitution of 1890 was aimed at limiting the rights of African Americans. Johnson, who was a Democrat, faced a lot of opposition from the Republicans who the majority in the Congress, and it was difficult to amend the constitution to favor African Americans.
Cocca, Lisa C. Reconstruction and the Aftermath of the Civil War. 2012.
Hesseltine, William B. Lincoln's Plan of Reconstruction. Broadfoot Pub. Co, 2000.
Hillstrom, Laurie C. Reconstruction. 2016.
Prince, K S. Radical Reconstruction: A Brief History with Documents. 2016.