What if President Lincoln wasn’t assassinated on April 14, 1865? Would his plan for Reconstruction allow for a quicker and easier reunification of the United States of America? Sadly the United States would never get to see the fast and simple reunification. This was due to the rift between Democrats and Republicans during the 1860’s. Lincoln’s choice to run with a Democratic Vice President showed the Nation that he was going to try to reunify the country, while also, attempting to keep everyone happy. Lincoln’s Vice President during his second term was Andrew Johnson, a former Senator from Tennessee, a slaveholder, had pro-Union sympathies but was terribly racist. This led to him often disagreeing with Congress and the House of Representatives on laws and bills during his presidency.
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A Democratic President with a Republican House and Senate led to many political disagreements. The former Confederate States of America was also in shambles. The war destroyed factories, farms, and the South’s economy. Lastly, the end of the Civil War did not end the prejudices held by the people, if anything, it created worse conditions for the now freed African-Americans. As a result of a dysfunctional political system, an economy in disarray, and a society with racist roots, Reconstruction was a failed program in which the political, economic, and social problems of the United States were not resolved. Politics played the most important part in Reconstruction. All laws and bills had to be passed by the government. The fundamental problem was that the government didn’t like to compromise.
The most detrimental political problem was that President Johnson vetoed the majority of laws passed by Congress. The fact that President Johnson was so headstrong about getting his way showed his unwillingness to grant support to the Democratic Party. Although President Johnson seemed very stubborn about getting his way, he very quickly changed his stance on the fate of the high ranking CSA officials.
In August of 1865, he wanted them executed, yet changed his opinion within a month. His next idea was to issue a blanket pardon to all of the rebels except for the ex-CSA office holders and rich planters. In addition, in contrast to Lincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction from early 1865 and the need of 10 percent of the white males to swear loyalty to the United States, Johnson’s Reconstruction Plan called for the rebel states to nullify their acts of succession, abolish slavery, and refuse to play the Confederate debts. Another political reason why Reconstruction was a failure was the Black Codes adopted by ex-CSA officials immediately after the end of the Civil War to limit the power of the newly freed African-Americans. The codes were made the life for African-Americans arguably worse than before the Civil War. Some of the codes included a curfew, the restriction to live in a town unless employed as a servant, an inability to bear arms, and states like South Carolina and Mississippi required blacks to be sold into labor for a year if they refused to sign a labor contract. Stubborn and racist politicians were not the only reason for failure, as the south tried to rebuild its economy, some questionable business practices were put into place. The south’s economy struggled during Reconstruction, as it was inferior compared to the North’s.
This was due to its old-fashioned reliance on farming, a lack of strong industrial businesses, and separate social worlds that would only cooperate for economic gain. As a result of ex-slaves not settling for being underpaid, there was a lack of employment. As a result, most blacks lived as tenant farmers and sharecroppers. The workers would be given an area of land, and in return, they would work the farms. This seemed like it would benefit both the landowner and tenant, but that was not the case. Neither the landowner or the tenants made any sort of income until harvest when the crops could be sold. The merchants weren’t always the best neighbor.
They would be dishonest about how much the landowner owed them, just to earn a little bit more cash. Although the south decided to finally focus on industrialization, it had some problems. First of all, the only reason the south was able to industrialize was thanks to northern and British investors that financed steel mills, factories, textile mills, and railroads in the south. Additionally, the people that chose to work in the southern factories only made 40% compared to the factory workers of the north. This sub-par pay also made it almost impossible to escape the cycle of debt like the sharecroppers. In his Atlanta Compromise speech, former slave Booker T.
Washington spoke about the divide between blacks and whites, and that they would only work together for economic gain. This sense of racial divide also played a huge role in the failure of Reconstruction. With strict laws against blacks and an economy that made them poor, the line between pre-Civil War and post-Civil War began to fade. One organization that was very determined to make life hell for blacks was the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK was founded by Nathan Bedford Forrest and was a way for formel CSA officers to oppress former slaves and destroy the Republican Party. KKK members beat, tortured, and brutally killed African Americans in order to keep America pure.
Although laws were passed to try to contain the KKK, most convictions were unsuccessful. There were also other social barriers African Americans had to endure. Some of these included literacy tests in order to vote, and Jim Crow Laws. The Jim Crow Laws made racial segregation a social norm.
Since June of 1886, when the 14th Amendment was passed, Republican hoped that southern states would allow African Americans to be able to vote. Since African Americans thought that the literacy tests and Jim Crow Laws violated the 14th Amendment, they sued. This mission to overturn the Jim Crow Laws was ended when the Supreme Court refused to overturn them in the Civil Rights Cases in 1883. Furthermore in 1896, in Plessy vs Ferguson, the Supreme Court ruled that the separate but equal facilities created by the Jim Crow laws did not violate the 14th Amendment and disappointed the African American community even further. These social causes were only a few of many that made the life of African Americans very trialing during Reconstruction.
The period after the Civil War was a very confusing time for most. People did not know if they should side with the Radical Republicans for an easy and painless reunification, or with the harsh Democrats that would make the rebels pay for their actions. Anyway, the hopes that reunification would be fast and easy were quickly abandoned after the American people saw how problematic a split country’s ideas would balance out into chaos. Subsequently caused by a defective political organization, an economy in discord, and a society controlled by racists, Reconstruction was a failed program in which the political, economic, and social problems of the United States were not resolved.