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Reconstruction Essay

1656 words - 7 pages

“Every man is created equal.” This is one of the most famous lines in the Declaration of Independence written in 1776. But this was obviously not true even a century later in the late 19th century. Only white males in that time (what time period?) had rights and suffrage. The black males were slaves. They were considered to be property with no rights. However this all changed starting with Lincoln’s election, the Civil War, and finally the Reconstruction. Although many obstacles—such as President Johnson, poll taxes, white supremacist groups, Black Codes and financial problems—hindered the freed black men from moving up in society, they still gained suffrage and the ability to own land among ...view middle of the document...

Crittenden wrote up the Crittenden Compromise. It called for permanent existence of slavery in the slave states and basically gave in to Southern states’ demands. However, it failed when the Republicans refused to accept it.
Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation paved the way for reform movements to free all blacks. The Civil War began in 1861 after the Battle at Fort Sumter. Lincoln claimed that the war was to preserve the Union and not about slavery at all but many were doubtful about that statement. During the Civil War, many slaves were soldiers but not officially because Lincoln feared Northern opposition. The soldiers, like the Buffalo Soldiers, were placed in mostly remote places and were under extremely harsh conditions. They rarely received any food or equipment. Most free blacks also tried to enlist in the Confederate army but the Confederacy didn’t accept them. The Union accepted the slaves and free blacks who wanted to fight. They were able to earn money abet at a much lower rate than the whites. The slaves were able to earn freedom as well under the Confiscation Act of 1861. The black soldiers played a big part in helping the Union win the war. By the time the Confederacy allowed black enlistments, the war was already ending. During the War, the radicals in the Congress wanted slavery to be abolished as soon as possible but Lincoln, a conservative, didn’t want to since it would mean losing the support of border states—slave states that are still part of the Union. In 1863, Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation. It declared that all slaves in the Confederates states were free. However, it didn’t apply to the slaves in the border states. Hundreds of slaves left the South to live in Union states and it ignited antislavery impulses and led to the abolishment of slavery in the two Union States of Maryland and Missouri.
The beginning of Reconstruction marks the start of federal government support of free blacks’ rights. The Thirteenth Amendment was ratified in 1865, officially abolishing and outlawing all slavery. The Freedmen’s Bureau was also created in the same year to aid former slaves adjust to freedom. It brought the ex-slaves food, established schools, and made some efforts to settle blacks on new lands. But Reconstruction started off rocky with many issues between Democrats and Republicans and then the Conservatives and Radicals. There were disagreements on how the South should be punished and the conditions under with the seceded states should be readmitted. The Conservatives wanted the South to accept the abolition of slavery but the Radicals wanted the civil and military leaders of the Confederates to be severely punished, the Southern whites to be disenfranchised, and redistribution of southern lands to be given to the freedmen. Some radicals even wanted all suffrage for blacks. The Republicans also feared that with the readmission of Southern states the Democrats would reunite and become stronger. To avoid this, Lincoln...

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