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'what I Deal With Is Too Vast For Malicious Dealing'. How Far Did Reconstruction Realise Lincoln's Vision?

1197 words - 5 pages

Reconstruction had been a subject of discussion in the North ever since the Civil War started. By December of 1864, when it was clear that the outcome of the American Civil War had been decided and that it was only a matter of time before the Confederates would be crushed, the debate about reconstruction became an urgent consideration. Seeing the end of war draw nearer, more and more ideas about what should happen to the South after their imminent defeat started to be suggested by those in power in the North.However, the main two thoughts for Reconstruction clearly represented two extremely polarised points of view within the Republican Party. On the one hand, were the radical Republicans who wanted harsh reconstruction in the South, in a manner of institutionalised revenge, to compensate for the losses the North had suffered. This involved federal occupation, equal rights for blacks and a complete elimination of the pre-war slavery lifestyle from social, economic and political aspects. This view was opposed by a group of Moderates, including Lincoln, who believed that the South would be more likely to reintegrate with the North if treated less severely. His view, as illustrated in the quotation 'What I deal with is too vast for malicious dealing', was that individual feelings of power, control or revenge could not be allowed to factor into decisions that concern such a great number of people and the welfare of future institutions. This ability to see personal interests as smaller than the larger concerns led Lincoln to believe that a softer reconstruction would bring the Union back together as quickly and as peacefully as possible. As detailed in Lincoln's 1863 10 Percent Plan, the transition through Reconstruction was envisaged with: re-admittance to the Union after 10% of the state attained loyalty by oaths, election by state franchise, reduced animosity for the Confederates and though the 13th amendment had to be accepted, blacks did not have the right to vote. When Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865, it looked as though an overwhelming popular majority would adopt a harsher reconstruction for the South. However, in reality was the Reconstruction really as ruthless as the Radicals sought or would Lincoln have been satisfied with the general outcome?I believe that given the social and economic magnitude and consequent devastation of the Civil War, the North was quite lenient with the South. Although upon his accession to the Presidency, Johnson appeared to be willing to co-operate with the Radicals, after a brief interval of vindictiveness, he swung around and made Lincoln's policy of reconstruction his own. This caused a great deal of discontent within the Republican Party. Many southerners, even those who were in high confederate office were quickly pardoned, with Jefferson Davis receiving only a two-year prison sentence. This was difficult for many throughout the North to accept. At the same time Johnson proceeded to appoint provisional...

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