Discussion #2: Reconstructing The Nation The Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, and the original goal of the North to preserve the Union was accomplished.
Discussion #2: Reconstructing The Nation The Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, and the original goal of the North to preserve the Union was accomplished. The task that lay before Lincoln and Congress was to reintegrate the rebellious Southern states into the Union. For many white southerners “Reconstruction was a vicious and destructive experience – a period when vindictive Northerners inflicted humiliation and revenge on a pro-state South.”
In order to prepare for this discussion forum:
Review and identify the relevant sections of Chapters 17 and 18 that support your discussion .
Review and identify relevant information on the linked PBS American Experience site, Reconstruction The Second Civil War
This link will direct you to the full transcript of the Wade-Davis Bill. What does it suggest about the prevailing Reconstruction sentiments in Congress?
Read the section in Chapter 17 which discusses the Black Codes, and the linked site on the Black Codes.
Read the linked document, a selection from The Ills of the South, written by Charles H. Okten, a Mississippi Baptist preacher, and schoolteacher, in which he describes conditions for Black Americans under the sharecropping and crop-lien system.
After you have completed your readings, post your response to ONE of the following questions:
Were the Black Codes another form of slavery?
Based on Okten’s statements, discuss how the sharecropping/crop lien system created a vicious cycle. Was this system simply another version of slavery? Why or why not.
Consider the following statement: “The persistence of racism in both the North and the South lay at the heart of Reconstruction’s failure.” Agree or disagree, and explain your position. Reconstruction: The
Second Civil War
Reconstruction(1863/1865-1877) was the attempt of the federal
government of the United States to resolve the issues of the
American Civil War (1861-1865), after the Confederacy was
defeated and slavery ended. Reconstruction addressed how
secessionist Southern states would return to the Union, the
civil status of the leaders of the Confederacy, and the
Constitutional and legal status of the Negro Freedmen. After
the Civil War, violent controversy erupted throughout the
South over how to tackle such issues.
The start of Reconstruction is often dated to the capitulation of
the Confederacy in 1865, although some historians date it to
1863,the year of the Emancipation Proclamation. The
constitutional amendments and legislative reforms that laid the
foundation for the most radical phase of Reconstruction were
enacted from 1865 until 1870.
The Phases of Reconstruction
Reconstruction came in three phases. Presidential Reconstruction,
1863-66 was controlled by Presidents Abraham Lincoln and
Andrew Johnson, with the goal of quickly reuniting the
country. It can be said to have begun with the Emancipation
Proclamation. The programs proposed by Lincoln and
subsequently by Johnson (who by late 1865 had lost the
support of most of the Republican party) were opposed by the
The second phase of reconstruction occurred after the 1866
elections and began Congressional Reconstruction, 1866-1873
emphasizing civil rights and voting rights for the freedmen.
Supported by the Military Reconstruction Act of 1867, in 1868
new state governments came to power in the former
Confederacy which were based on a Republican coalition of
freedmen, carpetbaggers and scalawags.
The third phase of reconstruction, the Redemption, 1873-1877,
white Southern Democrats (calling themselves “Redeemers”)
defeated the Republicans and took control of each southern
state, marking the end of Reconstruction. In 1877, President
Rutherford Hayes withdrew federal troops, causing the
collapse of the remaining three Republican state governments.
By the 1870s Reconstruction had made some progress to provide
the former slaves with equal rights under the law, including the
right to vote for men, and public education to achieve literacy.
During Reconstruction, most states in the South established
public education, although funding was variable. However,
much of the initial progress towards equal rights was rolled
back between 1873 and 1877, when conservative whites
(calling themselves “ Redeemers”) took power throughout the
In 1877 President Rutherford Hayes withdrew federal troops,
causing the collapse of the remaining three Republican state
governments. Through the enactment of Jim Crow laws and
extralegal means, the Redeemers subsequently enforced a
system of racial segregation which stayed in place throughout
the South into the 1960s.
Bitterness from the heated partisanship of the era lasted into the
20th century. But in other ways whites in the North and South
undertook reconciliation, which reached a height in the early
20th century. This reconciliation coincided with the nadir of
American race relations, nadir during which there was an
increase of racial segregation throughout America,
disfranchisement of most African-Americans in the South, and
racial violence, especially in the South. However, the
13th,14th,and 15th amendments were constitutional legacies of
the Radical period that provided the underpinning for later
civil rights legislation that was enacted in the 1960s.
John Hope Franklin On Reconstruction
John Hope Franklin is the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of
History, and for seven years was Professor of Legal History in
the Law School at Duke University. He is a native of
Oklahoma and a graduate of Fisk University. He received the
A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in history from Harvard University.
He has taught at a number of institutions, including Fisk
University, St. Augustine’s College, North Carolina Central
University and Howard University. In 1956 he went to
Brooklyn College as Chairman of the Department of History;
and in 1964, he joined the faculty of the University of
Chicago, serving as Chairman of the Department of History
from 1967 to 1970. At Chicago, he was the John Matthews
Manly Distinguished Service Professor from 1969 to 1982,
when he became Professor Emeritus.
Franklin : The South suffered enormously from the
devastations that characterized the war. And what we
sometimes forget is that some of the devastation came rather
early. There was a drive into the South in 1862, which caused
the whole Confederate government and Tennessee to collapse.
And Nashville was in the hands of the Union Army early in
the war. But of course the devastation extended all the way
down the Mississippi River finally to New Orleans, and the
South was cut off from each other..
That is, one half the South was cut off from the other half of the
South. And then there was the drive to the sea, to the Atlantic
Ocean, which of course cut the northern part of the South from
the southern part of the South. So you’ve got these sharp
divisions that were brought about by military operations. And
that was, of course, very devastating generally.
But that was only one part of it. Then you had the divisions, the
ideological and political divisions, which of course meant that
some people in the South were debating that the South should
move in this direction politically; others were saying that it
should move in that direction politically. And it’s interesting to
observe that the very thing that caused them to divide from the
North caused division within the South, you see. And that
brought on great disorder generally.
1863-1866: The Problem of Restoring the South to the Union
During the Civil War, Republican leaders agreed that slavery had
to be permanently destroyed, and that all forms of Confederate
nationalism had to be suppressed. Moderates said this could be
easily accomplished as soon as Confederate armies
surrendered and the Southern states repealed secession and
ratified the 13th Amendment. By September 1865, all of these
things had happened.
The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
officially abolished and continues to prohibit slavery, and with
limited exceptions, such as those convicted of a crime,
prohibits involuntary servitude. Prior to its ratification, slavery
remained legal only in Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri,
Maryland, and New Jersey; everywhere else in the USA
slaves had been freed by state action and the federal
government’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Abraham Lincoln (who had issued the Emancipation
Proclamation) and others were concerned that the
Emancipation Proclamation would be seen as a temporary war
measure, and so, besides freeing slaves in those states where
slavery was still legal, they supported the Amendment as a
means to guarantee the permanent abolition of slavery.
The ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 was
followed by the other two Reconstruction Amendments, the
Fourteenth which protected the civil rights of former slaves
and was ratified in 1866, and the Fifteenth which banned racial
restrictions on voting which was ratified in 1869.
President Abraham Lincoln was the leader of the moderate
Republicans and wanted to speed up Reconstruction and
reunite the nation as painlessly and as quickly as possible.
Lincoln formally began Reconstruction in late 1863 with his
Ten percent plan, which went into operation in several states
but which Radicals opposed. Lincoln pocket vetoed the
Radical plan, the Wade –Davis Bill of 1864, which was much
more strict than the Ten-Percent Plan.
President Abraham Lincoln proposed the Ten Percent Plan of
Reconstruction in December 1863, and offered a full pardon to
the seceding states. It decreed that a state could be reintegrated
into the Union when 10 percent of its voters in the presidential
election of 1860 had taken an oath of allegiance to the U.S.
and pledged to abide by emancipation. The next step in the
process would be for the states to formally elect a state
government. Also, the states were able to write a new
constitution, but had to abolish slavery forever. At that time,
Lincoln would recognize the purified regime. By 1864,
Louisiana and Arkansas had established fully functioning
Unionist governments. This policy was meant to shorten the
war by offering a moderate peace plan. It was also intended to
further his emancipation policy by insisting that the new
governments abolish slavery.
The Wade-Davis Bill of 1864, a program proposed by two
Radical Republicans, Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio and
Representative Henry Winter Davis of Maryland, made re-
admittance to the Union almost impossible or at least without a
great moral defeat for the South. It required a majority in each
Southern state to swear the Ironclad oath to the effect they had
never in the past supported the Confederacy. The bill passed
both houses of Congress on July 2, 1864, but President
Lincoln pocket vetoed it and never took effect.
Senator Benjamin Franklin
Wade of Ohio
The opposing faction of Radical Republicans questioned
Southern intentions and demanded more stringent federal
action. Congressman Thaddeus Stevens and Senator Charles
Sumner led the Radical Republicans. Sumner argued that
secession had destroyed statehood alone but the Constitution
still extended its authority and its protection over individuals,
as in the territories. Thaddeus Stevens and his followers
viewed secession as having left the states in a status like newly
After John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham
Lincoln in April 1865, President Andrew Johnson switched
from the Radical to the moderate camp. By 1866, however,
Johnson, with no party affiliation, broke with the moderate
Republicans and aligned himself more with the Democrats
who opposed equality and the Fourteenth Amendment.
Radicals attacked the policies of Johnson, especially his veto
of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which protected the civil
rights of freedmen.
Congress rejected Johnson’s argument that he had the war power
to decide what to do, since the war was over. Congress
decided it had the primary authority to decide because the
Constitution said the Congress had to guarantee each state a
republican form of government. The issue became how
republicanism should operate in the South, that is, how the
freedmen would achieve citizenship, what the status of the
Confederate states should be, and what should be the status of
men who had supported the Confederacy
Northern anger over the assassination of Lincoln and the
immense human cost of the war led to demands for harsh
policies. Vice President Andrew Johnson had taken a hard line
and spoke of hanging rebel Confederates, but when he
succeeded Lincoln as President, Johnson took a much softer
line, pardoning many Confederate leaders and ex-Confederates
to maintain their control of Southern state governments,
Southern lands, and black people. Jefferson Davis was held in
prison for two years, but other Confederate leaders were not.
There were no treason trials. Only one person—Captain Henry
Wirz , the commandant of the prison camp in Andersonville,
Georgia —was executed for war crimes.
March 3, 1865, Congress established the Bureau of Refugees,
Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Also known as the
Freedmen’s Bureau, it was a federal agency that was formed
during Reconstruction to aid distressed refugees of the Civil
War. The Freedmen’s Bureau Bill was initiated by Abraham
Lincoln and intended to last for one year after the end of the
Civil War. It became primarily an agency to help the
Freedmen (freed former slaves) in the South. The Bureau was
part of the United States Department of War, and headed by
Union General Oliver O. Howard. Fully operational from June
1865 through December 1868, it was disbanded by President
In March 1865, Congress had established the Freedmen’s Bureau.
The Bureau provided food, clothing, and fuel to destitute
former slaves and white refugees. It did not, as later myths
said, promise 40 acres and a mule.
Although resigned to the abolition of slavery, many ex-
Confederates were not willing to accept the granting of civil
rights to the freedmen. The defeated feared that after the
abolition of slavery, the freedmen would threaten their
economic and political preeminence in the South. In the words
of Benjamin F. Perry, president Johnson’s choice as the
provisional governor of South Carolina: “First, the Negro is to
be invested with all political power, and then the antagonism
of interest between capital and labor is to work out the result.”
However, the fears of the mostly conservative planter elite were
partly assuaged by the actions of president Johnson, who
ensured that a wholesale land redistribution from the planters
to the Freedman did not occur. President Johnson ordered that
confiscated or abandoned lands administered by the
Freedman’s Bureau would not be redistributed to the freedmen
but be returned to the pardoned owners. Land was returned
that would have been forfeited under the provisions of the
Confiscation Acts passed by Congress in 1861 and 1862.
In the South
Southern state governments quickly enacted the restrictive “black
codes.”. However they were abolished by Congress and
seldom had effect because the Freedman’s Bureau (not the
local courts) handled the legal affairs of freedmen. The Black
Codes were based off of northern vagrancy laws.
Under the black codes, the freedmen had more rights than did
free blacks before the war, but they still had only a limited set
of second-class civil rights, no voting rights, and their rights as
citizens such as owning firearms, serving in a jury when no
black was present in the case, and moving about the
countryside without employment were prohibited. Among
other provisions, the Black Codes stringently limited blacks’
ability to control their own employment. The Black Codes
outraged northern opinion. They were overthrown by the Civil
Rights Act of 1866 that gave the Freedmen full legal equality
(except for the right to vote).
The election of 1866 decisively changed the balance of power,
giving the Radicals control of Congress and enough votes to
overcome Johnson’s vetoes and even to impeach him. Johnson
was acquitted by one vote, but he remained almost powerless
regarding Reconstruction policy. Radicals used the Army to
take over the South and give the vote to black men, and they
took the vote away from an estimated 10,000 or 15,000 white
men who had been Confederate officials or senior officers.
The Radical stage lasted for varying lengths in the different
states, where a Republican coalition of freedmen, scalawags,
and carpetbaggers took control and promoted modernization
through railroads and public schools. They were charged with
corruption by their opponents, the conservative–Democratic
coalition, who called themselves “Redeemers” after 1870.
Violence sponsored by the Ku Klux Klan was occasionally
overcome by federal intervention.
In the South after the Civil War, a scalawag was a Southern white
who joined the Republican party in the ex-Confederate South
during Reconstruction. Scalawags formed a winning coalition
with freedmen, blacks who were former slaves, and Northern
newcomers derisively labeled carpetbaggers, to take control of
their state and local governments. The coalition controlled for
varying lengths of time during 1866-1877 every ex-
Confederate state except Virginia. Two of the most prominent
scalawags were General James Longstreet, Robert E. Lee’s top
general after Stonewall Jackson, and Joseph E. Brown, the
wartime governor of Georgia.
Congress imposes Radical Reconstruction:
Republicans in Congress took control of Reconstruction policies
after the election of 1866. They passed legislation over
President Johnson’s vetoes. They passed constitutional
amendments against his wishes. Thaddeus Stevens and Charles
Sumner, and the Republican faction that called themselves
“radicals” led efforts to extend suffrage to freedmen. They
were generally in control, although they had to compromise
with the moderate Republicans. (The Democrats in Congress
had almost no power.) Historians generally refer to this period
as Radical Reconstruction
With the Radicals in control Congress passed the Reconstruction
Acts in 1867. The first Reconstruction Act placed ten
Confederate states under military control, grouping them into
five military districts:
• First Military District: First Virginia, under General John
• Second Military District: The Carolinas, under General Daniel
• Third Military District: Georgia, Alabama and Florida, under
General John Pope.
• Fourth Military District: Arkansas and Mississippi, under
General Edward Ord.
• Fifth Military District: Texas and Louisiana, under Generals
Philip Sheridan and Winfield Scott Hancock.
Tennessee was not made part of a military district (having
already been readmitted to the Union), and therefore federal
controls did not apply.
The ten Southern state governments were re-constituted under the
direct control of the United States Army. There was little or no
fighting, but rather a state of martial law in which the military
closely supervised local government, supervised elections, and
protected office holders from violence. Blacks were enrolled
as voters; former Confederate leaders were excluded. No one
state was entirely representative.
The first critical step … was the registration of voters
according to guidelines established by Congress and
interpreted by Generals Sheridan and Griffin. The
Reconstruction Acts called for registering all adult males,
white and black, except those who had ever sworn an oath
to uphold the Constitution of the United States and then
engaged in rebellion.… Sheridan interpreted these
restrictions stringently, barring from registration not only
all pre-1861 officials of state and local governments who
had supported the Confederacy but also all city
officeholders and even minor functionaries such as sextons
of cemeteries. In May Griffin … appointed a three-man
board of registrars for each county, making his choices on
the advice of known Scalawags and local Freedman’s
First black voters during reconstruction.
In every county where practicable a freedman served as one
of the three registrars.… Final registration amounted to
approximately 59,633 whites and 49,479 blacks. It is
impossible to say how many whites were rejected or
refused to register (estimates vary from 7,500 to 12,000),
but blacks, who constituted only about 30 percent of the
state’s population, were significantly overrepresented at 45
percent of all voters.
All Southern states were readmitted to the Union by the end of
1870, the last being Georgia. All but 500 top Confederate
leaders were pardoned when President Grant signed the
Amnesty Act of 1872.
African American officeholders
Republicans took control of all Southern state governorships and
state legislatures, leading to the election of numerous African-
Americans to state and national offices, as well as to the
installation of African-Americans into other positions of
power. About 137 black officeholders had lived outside the
South before the Civil War. Some had escaped from slavery to
the North and returned to help the South advance in the
postwar era. A number of them had achieved education and
positions of leadership elsewhere. Other African American
men who served were leaders in their communities, including
a number of preachers. As was the case in white communities,
all leadership did not depend on wealth and literacy.
When black men are given the right to vote, they elect hundreds
of black legislators to state and national offices, even though
the elections are preceded by threats and violence. The new
black politicians, like Mississippi’s John Roy Lynch, pass
ambitious civil rights and public education laws.
The last black Congressman elected from the South was George
Henry White of North Carolina, elected in 1897. His term
expired in 1901, the same year that the last president to have
fought in the civil war, William McKinley, died. No blacks
served in Congress for the next 28 years.
George Henry White was born a slave in Rosindale, North
Carolina, on 18th December, 1852. After working as a farm
laborer he studied at Howard University (1873-1877). This
was followed by a period as a school teacher and as a lawyer
in New Bern.
A member of the Republican Party, White was elected to the
House of Representatives in 1880. He campaigned for
increased spending on African American education. White
helped to establish four new schools and for a while served as
principal of the school in New Bern.
In 1885 White was elected to the state Senate where he served
on the committees for the insane asylum, insurance and
judiciary. He also continued to work as a lawyer in New Bern
White was elected to Congress in 1896. He was the last former
slave to serve in Congress and by 1898 was the only African
American in the House of Representatives. White campaigned
against racial discrimination and urged the enforcement of the
second section of the Fourteenth Amendment that reduced the
representation in the House of Representatives of those states
which denied African Americans the vote.
In January, 1901, White proposed a bill that would make
lynching of American citizens a federal crime. He argued that
any person participating actively in or acting as an accessory
in a lynching should be convicted of treason. White pointed
out that lynching was being used by white mobs in the Deep
South to terrorize African Americans. He illustrated this by
showing that of the 109 people lynched in 1899, 87 were
African Americans. Despite White’s passionate plea, the bill
was easily defeated.
White was aware that his outspoken comments on civil right
would result in him losing his next election. In his last speech
in Congress on 29th January, 1901, White predicted: “This is
perhaps the Negroes’ temporary farewell to the American
Congress; but let me say, Phoenix-like he will rise up some
day and come again. These parting words are in behalf of an
outraged, heart-broken bruised and bleeding, but God-fearing
people, faithful, industrious, loyal, rising people – full of
potential force.” White’s forecast was correct and it was not
until 1928 that another African American, Oscar DePriest, was
elected to Congress.
In 1905 White moved to Philadelphia where he successfully
practiced law and established the People’s Saving Bank in
Lombard Street. This bank was able to help African
Americans to purchase homes and start businesses. As well as
helping to establish Whitesboro, a community for migrating
African Americans from the Deep South, White was active in
the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People (NAACP). George Henry White died in 1918.
Terrorism in the South
Reaction by conservative Confederates to the occupation and
regulation of their states included the formation of violent
secret societies, especially the Ku Klux Klan. Violence
occurred in cities and in the countryside between white former
Confederates, Republicans, African-Americans,
representatives of the federal government, and Republican-
organized armed Loyal Leagues. The victims of violence were
overwhelmingly African Americans, although white
supporters were also attacked.
Ku Klux Klan
The Panic of 1873 hit the Southern economy hard and
disillusioned many Republicans who had gambled that
railroads would pull the South out of its poverty. The price of
cotton fell by half; many small landowners, local merchants
and cotton factors (wholesalers) went bankrupt.
Sharecropping, for both black and white farmers, became more
common as a way to spread the risk of owning land. The old
abolitionist element in the North was aging away, or had lost
interest, and was not replenished. Many carpetbaggers
returned to the North or joined the Redeemers. Blacks had an
increased voice in the Republican Party, but across the South it
was divided by internal bickering and was rapidly losing its
cohesion. Many local black leaders started emphasizing
individual economic progress in cooperation with white elites,
rather than racial political progress in opposition to them, a
conservative attitude that foreshadowed Booker T.
Nationally, President Grant took the blame for the depression; the
Republican Party lost 96 seats in all parts of the country in the
1874 elections.. The Democrats took control of the House and
were confident of electing Samuel J. Tilden president in 1876.
President Grant was not running for re-election and seemed to
be losing interest in the South. States fell to the Redeemers,
with only four in Republican hands in 1873, Arkansas,
Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina; Arkansas then fell
in 1874. Political violence was endemic in Louisiana, but
efforts to seize the state government were repulsed by federal
troops who entered the state legislature and hauled away
several Democratic legislators. The violation of tradition
embarrassed Grant, and some of his cabinet recommended
against further intervention.
By now, all Democrats and most northern Republicans agreed
that Confederate nationalism and slavery were dead—the war
goals were achieved—and further federal military interference
was an undemocratic violation of historic Republican values.
The victory of Rutherford Hayes in the hotly contested
indicated his “let alone” policy toward the South would
become Republican policy, as indeed happened when he won
the 1876 Republican nomination for president. The last
explosion of violence came in , in which Democratic rifle
clubs, operating in the open and without disguise, threatened
or shot enough Republicans to decide the election for the
Redeemers. Republican Governor Adelbert Ames asked Grant
for federal troops to fight back; Grant refused, saying public
opinion was “tired out” of the perpetual troubles in the South.
Ames fled the state as the Democrats took over Mississippi.
Reconstruction continued in South Carolina, Louisiana and
Florida until 1877. After Republican Rutherford Hayes won
the disputed US Presidential election of 1876, the Compromise
of 1877 was reached whereby the white South agreed to accept
Hayes’s victory if he withdrew the last Federal troops. By this
point, everyone had agreed that Reconstruction was finished.
However, the African-Americans who wanted their legal rights
guaranteed by the Federal government were repeatedly
frustrated for another 75 years; they considered Reconstruction
Faces of Reconstruction