American History – Reconstruction – Part 1

The Tragedy of Reconstruction

The years following the civil war were a period of Heart break and setback and the south was in ruins.

  • Cars, stations, factories had been destroyed
  • Homes of soldiers were overgrown with weeds.
  • More than half of cattle, horses were taken by one or other army.
  • People found it difficult to make a living because of the confederate governments bonds.
  • Great changes were brought in the lives of people due to Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation.

Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation

  1. The Negros where not accustomed to freedom. When the landowners didn’t have any savings they fled into the cities in search of jobs. As they were not educated and relied only on the masters for wages, they were not suitable for any job. Some of them stayed back and worked for their former masters.
  2. Southern governments could not improve the situation. The confederacy collapsed completely and when the central confederates disbanded, the southern governments collapsed, bands of muffians terrorized the countryside. Southerners who had fought for the confederacy were deprived of citizenship rights. The only real authority in the south was union army.
  3. The economy based slave labor and plantation system was completely disrupted. Therefore there remained the problem of building up a new relationship between the Negros and the former masters.
  4. A number of southern cities had been wholly or partially destroyed; likewise, many cities and the factories and much of the railway mileage had been damaged.
  5. Banks were closed; All banks closed their doors and evidence of economic ruins could be seen everywhere.

The problem of reconstruction;

  1. In the north the problem consisted in
    1. Doing away with many agencies of government which had grown up during the war;
    2. Returning the soldiers to civilian life
    3. Converting war time economy to peace time economy.

Fortunately wartime prosperity continued for several years. After this war

  1. Industry and agriculture expanded as 10,000,000 men were released from the army.
    1. Many went to the west to take up free land under Homestead Act.
    2. Government made tax reductions as there was decrease in spending.

2. The following factors complicated the problem in the slave states.

  1. Presence of freed Negros.
  2. The great destruction brought by warfare of guerilla bands.
  3. In the south the problem was proved to be in a serious magnitude
  4. The south had to rebuild everything
  5. Local government had to be restored
  6. Many of these states had to be re-admitted into the union.
  7. Former confederate soldiers had to regain their citizenship.
  8. Bands of ruffians terrorized the country side.
  9. Half of the livestock- Cattle and horses had been taken away by army of the north.
  10. Practically, the southerners were bankrupt.
  11. All the banks closed their doors.
  12. Many southerners fled to Mexico, Brazil and to free lands of the frontier fearing that they would be punished for what they had done in the war.
  13. The conditions were far from favorable for reconstruction.
  14. Northerners understood that reconstruction was “Solution of political problems” and they interfered in the solutions which went out of control of southern governments ruled by northern officials and military units.
  15. In the north, “reconstruction” meant “economic and social adjustments” that followed the war.


Lincoln’s ten percent plan


Lincoln was convinced that something should be done to help the southerners to resume their former status in the union.

Provisional governments were set in those areas where he union armies were victorious.

  1. He issued a proclamation of amnesty and reconstruction in 1863 that pardoned all and should accept “all acts of congress passed during the existing rebellion with reference to slaves”.
  2. New government for any state was authorized if one-tenth of the population took loyalty oath. However it received strong opposition from the congressional leaders. They feared that the president would “let the south out”.
  3. IN 1864, “Wade Davis bill” was passed. A] In which white male citizens had to take loyalty oath before civil government.
  4. Wade and Davis accused him of “ Dictatorial usurpation”
  5. This plan couldn’t be carried out after Lincoln’s assassination and the North and south suffered.