Reconstruction After the American Civil War Essay
The civil war is considered by many the most important war that our country has endured. During the 5 year Civil War, not only did 620,000 men die, but our nation was left in ruins. It was necessary that our country be rebuilt from bottom up. Abraham Lincoln, said to be the brightest president of his time, had plans and ideas for reconstruction. Unfortunately, these plans were failed to be put in place due to the fact of his assassination on April 14, 1865. Throughout some of the most politically tough years our nation has experienced (1865-1877) lousy presidents were elected, plans and bills failed and succeeded, and struggles with civil rights were prominent everywhere. The United State’s hopeful plans for reconstructing and reuniting slowly faded until it was all gone
The most important part of reconstruction would probably have to be the beginning, or where it all started. Reconstruction of our nation began unofficially in 1863 with Lincoln’s 10% plan. Because Lincoln wanted a reunited nation as easily and quickly as possible, he entailed that only 10% of the confederates in each state would have to swear allegiance in order for the state to be accepted back into the union. Because of the small number of confederates needed to swear allegiance, the radical republicans in congress were angered and proposed the Wade-Davis Bill. The Wade-Davis bill was intended to make congress responsible for reconstruction rather than the president, and also stated that the majority (not 10%) would have to swear allegiance in each state to be re-accepted into the union. For the good of the united states, not for selfish reasons, Lincoln vetoed (or declined) the bill. Because Lincoln was assassinated, the rest of his plans and hopes for reconstruction were never put to use, and his vice-president, Andrew Johnson, took the Presidential role.
As reconstruction continued on, it brought many major achievements that greatly benefited our country. One of the greatest accomplishments of reconstruction was the Fifteenth Amendment. The Fifteenth Amendment stated that everyone has a right to vote no matter what “race, color, or previous condition of servitude” was. Because many whites didn’t like this, they wouldn’t cooperate with the amendment and would go as far as using violence to make blacks not vote. Because of this congress used the Enforcement Act of 1870 which entailed that federal governments would be able to punish those that were causing problems for the African Americans. Going along with the fifteenth amendment, reconstruction brought another achievement, a new life and society for former slaves.
Supported by the government, former slaves were able to create new lives for themselves. Although it took hard work and dedication, African Americans were able to create schooling systems, churches and volunteer groups and fight against segregation. Former slaves were able to reunite with their families, and blacks were even finally allowed a spot in politics. The final greatest achievement of reconstruction was reuniting our country. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and the other four states all re-entered the union by 1870. By originally initiating reconstruction, this is what Lincoln was shooting for. Although they still had political and economic differences, they were once again a reunited nation.
With every great movement and political plan, lasting effects come along with it. During reconstruction many things were accomplished, which means that our nation was faced with many positive and negative effects. Some of the positive effects included new opportunities for the common public and former slaves. For example, the common public was presented with its first public school system, new roads and railroads, as well as orphanages for children and institutions for the mentally ill. One of the negative effects of the war was the physically and economically drained south. After the war, the south was in extremely poor physical condition and most everything had to be either rebuilt or restored. This was going to cost sufficient amounts of money that the south did not have. To get the money, the taxes rose and the wages lowered. Many people were without family members that died in the civil war, and the south’s population had decreased drastically.
Another lasting effect that reconstruction left on our nation was a dent on the farms and plantations in the south. Many farms and plantations in the south had been ruined. Poor whites and African Americans were at disagreement with rich whites on what the farm land should be used as. Rich whites wanted to restore the plantation system and poor whites and African Americans wanted to create small farms and subsistence farming. Labor was also down. With many men dying in the war, not as many people were left to work on the farms. When the plantations were reopened, many African Americans and poor whites worked on the plantations in exchange for housing, food, clothing, etc. Many good and bad effects were left on our nation from reconstruction.
Although reconstruction was a good recovery point for our nation, it was slowly ended in 1877 for a collection of reasons. One of the largest problems was whites inflicting violence on African Americans to prevent them from exercising their rights. During reconstruction, Americans struggled with anti-black radicals such as the Ku Klux Klan. They destroyed buildings, personal property, harmed the African Americans, and even went as far as killing them. The goal of the Ku Klux Klan was to restore white supremacy. By 1880 terrorist groups had restored white supremacy in the south. Along with terrorist groups, political troubles were also in the nation’s way. General Ulysses S. Grant was elected president in 1872. Because Grant was inexperienced, he brought his friends into high positions and many scandals resulted. Because of all of the scandals, many people became irritated and more conflict arose. Last but not least, the United States was experiencing economic turmoil.
The panic of 1873 was one of the main reasons that focus was turned away from reconstruction. A man named Jay Cooke invested a grand amount of money in railroads and not enough investors bought shares, causing Cooke to spiral into debt. Because of this Cooke’s banking firm (largest in the nation) went bankrupt. Many small banks and businesses closed and the stock market closed. Millions lost their jobs. Because of this five year depression, the focus of the country was turned away from reconstruction. Reconstruction lasted a solid 13 years that were filled with many great improvements and countless lasting effects on our country. While enduring many severe losses and challenges brought on by the Civil War, the United States pushed through and reunited. We will always be affected by this era in our country’s history. Throughout many failed presidencies, failed and passed bills and movements, and continuous struggles with civil rights, America became the country it is today. From the achievements to the collapse of reconstruction, I believe it was completely necessary and left many lasting effects, good and bad, on our country.
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