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Chapter 16: The Union Reconstructed

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1 Chapter 16: The Union Reconstructed
THE AMERICAN PEOPLE CREATING A NATION AND A SOCIETY NASH  JEFFREY HOWE  FREDERICK DAVIS  WINKLER  MIRES  PESTANA 7th Edition Chapter 16: The Union Reconstructed Pearson Education, Inc, publishing as Longman © 2006


3 THE UNITED STATES IN 1865 At the end of the war, Lincoln’s official position was that the South had never left the Union and that the President had the power to decide how to set relations right again Lincoln’s opponents argued that by declaring war, the Confederacy had broken their Constitutional ties and reverted to a territory status which gave Congress the power to decide how they should be dealt with In 1865, the Republican party ruled virtually unchecked Democrats were in shambles though Unionist Tennessee Democrat Andrew Johnson had been named vice president in 1864 and was now president The North was stronger than ever; the South lay in ruins with many facing starvation but without a change in mind and will


Blacks tested their new freedom gradually, usually by leaving the plantation, if only for a few hours or days Some cut their ties entirely and a number went in search of family. Many former slaves legally married Former slaves also chose surnames Emancipation changed black behavior around whites Most freed slaves made education a priority The primary goal for these freed people was to secure land They expected a new economic order and some compensation for their years in slavery If the other goals were achieved, many looked forward to civil rights and the vote along with protection from vengeful Confederates


White southerners felt outrage, loss and injustice as well as fear of newly freed slaves and changed conditions Worst fears were of rape and revenge Almost all societal norms in the South had been reversed as a result of losing the war Southern legislatures passed “Black Codes” the first year after the war to secure white dominance Permitted blacks certain rights, but carefully circumscribed them, and clearly outlawed a number of other rights and activities Southern whites wanted federal troops to leave while southern blacks looked to the troops for protection Whites viewed violence as another reason to return to plantation society

Black Codes directly challenged the national government in 1865 Dual drama of white landowners versus black freedmen over land, labor and liberties in the South and the national debate over Reconstruction policy


President Johnson quickly moved to a lenient policy based on the claim the South had never left the Union First proclamation offered amnesty to most Confederates who would swear an oath of allegiance to the Constitution and the Union Those who had been leaders or had property worth more than $20,000 would have to apply for individual pardons Second proclamation accepted the reconstructed government of North Carolina and prescribed steps by which others could reestablish state governments President would appoint a provisional governor who would call a state convention composed of those loyal to the U.S. Convention would ratify the 13th Amendment, void secession, repudiate Confederate debts, and elect new state officials and members of Congress All southern states had completed Johnson’s plan and sent members to Congress by December 1865 Unfortunately many had been leaders in the Confederacy and some were not even pardoned yet No state convention provided black suffrage or protection for their civil rights

By late 1865, northern leaders realized few of their postwar goals were being realized and that the Democrats might recapture power Congress refused to seat the new southern delegates and established a Joint Committee on Reconstruction to investigate conditions in the South Congress passed a civil rights bill in 1866 to protect the fragile rights of African Americans and extended for two more years the Freedmen’s Bureau Johnson vetoed both bills Congress passed both bills over his veto Southern racial violence erupted Congress sent the Fourteenth amendment to the states for ratification Promised permanent constitutional protection of the civil rights of blacks by defining them as citizens The second section granted black male suffrage Other sections barred leaders of the Confederacy from national or state offices (except by act of Congress), repudiated the Confederate debt and denied claims of compensation to former slave owners

Johnson urged the southern states to reject the amendment and 10 immediately did so, making the amendment the main issue of the 1866 elections The result was an overwhelming victory for the Republicans who passed Three Reconstruction Acts in 1867 Divided southern states into five military districts Defined a new process for readmission whereby qualified voters—including blacks but excluding unreconstructed rebels—would elect delegates to state constitutional conventions that would write new constitutions guaranteeing black suffrage After new voters of the states had ratified these constitutions, elections would be held to choose governors and state legislatures When a state ratified the Fourteenth Amendment, its representatives to Congress would be accepted, completing readmission to the Union


Congress restricted presidential powers and established legislative dominance over the executive branch Tenure of Office Act Johnson vetoed the Reconstruction acts, removed cabinet officers and others sympathetic to Congress, hindered the work of the Freedmen’s Bureau agents, and limited the activities of military commanders in the South An initial effort at impeachment failed but succeeded in 1867 after Johnson tried to fire Secretary of War Stanton Johnson went through a three month trial in early 1868 and was acquitted by one vote As moderate Republicans gained strength in 1868 , principled radicalism lost much of its power within Republican ranks

Impeachment procedures showed that most Republicans were more interested in protecting themselves than blacks and in punishing Johnson rather than the South Only Jefferson Davis was imprisoned and only the commander of the Andersonville Prison Camp was executed Congress did not insist on long probation before southern states were readmitted, did not reorganize southern governments, did not mandate a national education program for freedpeople, did not confiscate and redistribute land, nor did it prevent Johnson from returning land to white owners Congress did grant citizenship and suffrage to freedmen, but not women Northern states generally did not provide black male suffrage Only changed views with passage of 15th Amendment in 1870

Women, left out of 14th and 15th amendments, were angered In 1869 the women’s movement split with followers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony focusing on a national suffrage amendment and others focusing on securing the vote state by state Rights of African Americans were also sacrificed as they got the vote but not land Southern Homestead Act of 1866 made public lands available to blacks and loyal whites in five southern states Land was poor and inaccessible No transportation, tools or seeds were provided Most blacks were bound by labor contracts that prevented them from making claims before the deadline

Whites, even those supposedly there to help blacks, continued to urge them to work, often for their former masters

18 THE FREEDMAN’S BUREAU The Bureau of Freedmen, Refugees and Abandoned Lands controlled less than one percent of southern land Issued emergency food rations, clothes and shelter for the homeless victims of the war and established medical and hospital facilities Provided funds to relocate thousands of freedpeople Helped blacks search for relatives and get married Represented blacks in local civil courts Most successfully ran education program for the freed slaves Served as an early employment agency for African Americans though often supported needs of whites for cheap labor over desires of blacks to become independent farmers Most agents were Union army officers more concerned with social order than social transformation Agents were overworked and spread too thin In two years, the agency issued 20 million rations, reunited families and resettled some 30,000 people, treated 45,000 for illness and injury, and built 40 hospitals and more than 40,000 schools


The failure of Congress to provide 40 acres and a mule for the freedmen resulted in a new economic dependency on their former masters though there were major changes in southern agriculture A land intensive system replaced the labor intensity of slavery Land ownership consolidated into huge holdings Concentrated on one cash crop, usually cotton, and were tied into the international market New credit system was created which forced most farmers, black and white, into dependence on local merchants At first, African Americans signed work contracts with white landowners and worked in gangs as if slavery still existed Freedpeople wanted more independence and resented having their entire families required to work which was the major impetus for the change from the contract system to tenancy and sharecropping Sharecroppers remained tied to the land and tenant farmers had only slightly more independence with both hurt by low world cotton prices Debt peonage replaced slavery as a way to maintain a cheap labor force By percent of African Americans became independent landowners and by 1900 the number was closer to 25 percent


Changes in southern agriculture affected poor white farmers and planters worried they might align with blacks Reliance on cotton meant fewer food crops and greater reliance on merchants for provisions Fencing laws and hunting and fishing restrictions further undercut poor white independence As conditions worsened, some became farmhands while others took low-paying jobs in cotton mills Social life centered on an emotional religion, while their housing and quilting reflected a marginal culture where everything was reused Clung to their beliefs in white superiority and often joined the Ku Klux Klan and other white terrorist groups that emerged between 1866 and 1868

Blacks decided white institutions would never meet their needs Began by creating their own black churches or moving from white to already existing black churches Some denominations broke with their white counterparts to form autonomous black churches African American ministers continued to exert community leadership Desire for education led blacks to assume responsibility for schools after the Freedmen’s Bureau stopped Black teachers increasingly replaced whites By 1870 there was a 20 percent gain in freed black adult literacy Between 1865 and 1867 several black universities were founded to train teachers African American schools, like churches, became community centers White opposition to black education and land ownership stimulated African American nationalism and separatism Thousands of “exodusters” moved to land purchased in Kansas Others advocated Canada or Liberia

With President Johnson neutralized, national Republican leaders could prevail Local Republicans, taking advantage of the inability or refusal of many southern whites to vote, overwhelmingly elected their delegates to state constitutional conventions in the fall of 1867

25 REPUBLICAN RULE Lacking strong military backing, new southern state governments faced economic distress and increasingly violent harassment Diverse coalitions made up the new governments elected under congressional Reconstruction, though, except for the lower house of South Carolina, they were predominantly white Old Whig elite of bankers, industrialists and others interested more in economic growth and sectional reconciliation than in radical social reforms Northern Republican capitalists who saw the South as an opportunity for investment and Union veterans, missionaries and teachers inspired to help the freedmen Moderate African Americans, many of whom were mulattos and owned land, and the majority of whom were literate Primary accomplishment of Republican rule in the South was to eliminate undemocratic features from prewar state constitutions All states provided universal male suffrage and loosened requirements for holding office Underrepresented counties got more legislative seats Automatic imprisonment for debt was ended and laws were enacted to relieve poverty and care for the disabled Many southern states passed the first divorce laws and provisions granting property rights to married women and lists of crimes punishable by death were shortened

26 REPUBLICAN RULE Republican governments financially and physically reconstructed the South by overhauling the tax system and approving generous railroad and other capital investment bonds Providing more services, such as education, resulted in higher taxes and increased debts Corruption existed but not worse than in the North The Republican coalition lasted longer in the deep South but did not survive in general In Virginia Republicans ruled hardly at all In South Carolina, African American leaders’ unwillingness to use their power to help black laborers, contributed to their loss of political control Class divisions in Louisiana helped weaken the Republican regime In Alabama, a flood of northern capital created a new industrial and merchant class to rival the old planter aristocracy Violence was the primary reason for the return of the Democrats to power


Mississippi and North Carolina typify the violence that permeated the South After losing an election in North Carolina in 1868, conservatives waged a terrorist campaign in Unionist counties Courts refused to take any action Democrats won in 1870 In the “Mississippi Plan,” local Democratic clubs formed armed militias, marching defiantly through black areas, breaking up Republican meetings, and provoking riots to justify killing hundreds Democrats called their victory “redemption” Succeeded with a combination of persistent white southern resistance, including violence and coercion, and a failure of northern will

Three Force Acts, passed in 1870 and 1871, gave the president strong powers to use federal supervisors to ensure that citizens were not prevented from voting by force or fraud The Ku Klux Klan Act declared illegal secret organizations that used disguise and coercion to deprive others of equal protection of the laws Congress created a joint committee to investigate Klan violence, filing a 13 volume report in 1872 But Republicans moved away from their support of blacks and by 1875, Grant refused to send troops to Mississippi to protect black voting rights The success of the Mississippi Plan was repeated in 1876 in South Carolina and Louisiana In two decisions in 1874, the Supreme Court threw out cases against whites convicted of preventing blacks from voting and declared key provisions of the Force Acts unconstitutional

The American people were tired of battles over freedpeople Most Americans were concerned with starting families, finding work and making money Northern leaders focused their efforts on accelerating and solidifying their program of economic growth and industrial and territorial expansion The years between 1865 and 1875 saw the spectacular rise of working-class organizations The growth of these organizations spurred class tensions As economic relations changed, the Republican party shifted from one of moral reform to one of material interest Grant’s administration suffered from corruption scandals Congress also suffered from scandals In the election of 1872, “Liberal” Republicans formed a third party calling for lower tariff and fewer grants to railroads, civil service reform and the removal of federal troops from the South Grant easily won a second term

In 1873 a financial panic caused by commercial overexpansion into railroads, railroad mismanagement and the collapse of some eastern banks, started a depression that lasted through the 1870s Democrats took control of the House in 1874 1875 Congress passed a civil rights bill that was not enforced and was declared unconstitutional eight years later In 1876, Republicans chose Rutherford B. Hays while Democrats backed Samuel J. Tilden, who won the popular vote and appeared to have won the electoral vote However, 20 of the votes, all but one in Republican controlled Louisiana, South Carolina and Florida, were disputed Hayes was given the votes by a partisan vote of an election commission. Democrats protested and the result was the Compromise of 1877 which saw the removal of the last federal troops from the South, the appointment of a former Confederate general to the cabinet, federal aid for economic and railroad development in the South and the promise to let southerners handle race relations themselves


Documentary History of Emancipation, Freedman’s Bureau Online Freedmen’s Bureau in Augusta County, Virginia The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson Images of African Americans from the Nineteenth Century Reports on Black America, African American Perspectives,

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