Was Reconstruction A Success Or A Failure

1609 words - 7 pages

In 1865, prior to Abraham Lincoln's assassination, Reconstruction commenced after the Confederacy's surrender at Appomattox. Post-Civil War, the South's economic, social, and political status lied in ruins. New constitutions had to be established and the country recreated to maintain peace, unity, and order in the United States.
Reconstruction both succeeded and failed. Some contemporaries of the time period considered the Reconstruction era a "waste of time and money." It did not give blacks the rights and freedom the government claimed to have bestowed upon them. However, others believed it to be a necessary period that opened new doors and made the United States a better country. The government created the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments and established the Freedmen's Bureau. Also, economic, political, and social standings throughout the country improved.
According to The Problems of Reconstruction, President Abraham Lincoln aimed to accomplish two goals. For one, "He attempted to crush the rebellion with armed might." Second, "He almost ceaselessly tried to get the South to give up its rebellion voluntarily and return to the Union." During the Civil War, on December 8, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln enacted the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction. It allowed Confederate followers a chance to be fully pardoned and a "restoration of all rights," as long as they submitted to the laws of the Union. Also, "When 10 percent of the number of people who had cast votes in the state in 1860 had taken the oath, a new state government could be established and the state permitted to take its regular place in the Union." However, it excluded Confederate leaders and high-ranking officers. Correspondingly, Lincoln issued a "Preliminary Proclamation," on September 22, 1862. It warned the southern states that if they did not submit to the Union before January 1, 1863, he would "act to free the slaves in those states still in rebellion." President Lincoln kept his word and issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Two years later, the 13th amendment formally abolished the "peculiar institution" of slavery. Congress established the Freedmen's bureau on March 3, 1865. It aided former slaves and white refugees by providing them with "food, clothing, medical care, education."

On April 15, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln died at 7:22 am after being shot by John Wilkes Booth at a theater. Andrew Johnson, Lincoln's vice-president, took the presidential office. As stated in The Problems of Reconstruction, Johnson could be described as "an exceedingly complex individual-virtually a bundle of contradictions." He considered the confederate states as traitors, and he stated, "Treason must be made odious, and the traitors must be punished and impoverished." On the contrary, he pardoned thousands of confederate leaders, for he expected them to "realize the enormity of the crime they had...

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