Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Reconstruction and the 14th Amendment

Slave picking cotton

I. Presidential Reconstruction

I. What the two sides fought for

A. North – fought to end slave power (explain how this differs from ending slavery or abolition)
Fight to “save the Union” – northern opposition to the idea of secession.

1. Evolution of political ideals – the Emancipation Proclamation changed Northern war aims; it became not just a war to save the Union, but a war to end slavery--although few northern whites gave much thought to what that result would mean.

2. Emancipation Proclamation – four reasons for Lincoln finally acceding to this demand:

a. Changing public sentiment for the abolition of slavery

b. Prevent England and France from entering the war on the side of the South.

c. Expedient to undermine the Southern war effort – slavery allowed the South to utilize a much higher percentage of its adult white male population.

d. Recognition by Lincoln that slaves were liberating themselves – that the Northern war effort was being aided by the labor actions of southern slaves.

B. South – fought to protect their homes from the invading Yankees; also fought to preserve the “southern way of life” (slavery)

1. Why southerners seceded – most people in the south had no say in the matter; whenever the question of secession was put to a popular vote, it was defeated.

2. Slavery as a social system – slavery was more than a means of organizing labor; it was a means of organizing society.

3. Although poor whites were expected to show deference toward rich whites, but could expect deference from slaves.

4. Poor white most often made up the slave patrols, which tracked down runaway slaves and enforced slave discipline away from the plantation.

5. This investment in the benefits of “whiteness” was enough for many southerners to continue to fight to retain slavery.

II. Three phases of Reconstruction

A. Lincoln’s Plan – for Lincoln, Reconstruction was more of a wartime expediency than a plan to reunite the Union—many of his proposals had to do more with keeping border states within the Union, or undermining the Confederate war effort, than a plan to integrate African-American slaves into American society.

1. 1863 Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction – if 10% of white males who voted in 1860 took an oath of allegiance to the Constitution and the Union, and swore to uphold the laws dealing with emancipation, they were eligible to receive a Presidential pardon and begin forming a state government.

a. Provisional governments were formed in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana under this plan

b. 1864 Wade-Davis Bill – product of small, but influential, group of so-called “Radical Republicans” who demanded a transformation of Southern society.

c. Wade-Davis stipulated that a majority of white males declare their allegiance to the Union, and that only those who could provide proof that they had always remained loyal could vote and serve in the state constitutional conventions.

d. In addition, the conventions themselves would have to abolish slavery, deny political rights to high-ranking civil and military officers of the Confederacy, and repudiate Confederate war debts.

2. Lincoln opposed this measure, and was able to exercise a “pocket veto” by not signing the bill after Congress had adjourned.

a. Wade-Davis Manifesto – accused Lincoln of usurping power and of attempting to use the readmitted states to ensure his re-election.

3. Lincoln’s final statement on Reconstruction – wanted no persecution, no revenge, no dramatic restructuring of southern social and economic life; how this would have fared with the Southern political response (the return of so many Confederate political leaders, restrictions placed upon newly-freed African Americans, etc.) no one can truly say; Lincoln’s best feature was his flexibility of response to changing situations.

B. Presidential Reconstruction – Congress was not in session from the time of Confederate surrender and Lincoln’s assassination until the late fall of 1865, so Johnson had a free hand to carry out what he thought Lincoln’s plans were for Reconstruction.

1. Andrew Johnson -- devout Southern Unionist, placed on the ticket with Lincoln in 1864 (when Lincoln ran as an Unionist, rather than on the Republican ticket) in a gesture of bipartisanship. Johnson shared similar upbringing with Lincoln (little formal education, constant striving to better himself), but he lacked Lincoln’s political acumen, and he was bitterly racist (where Lincoln’s racism was more benign).

a. Johnson came to political power in eastern Tennessee, opposing the power of large slave owners.

b. Johnson himself owned slaves, however, and he was an extreme racist

c.Johnson was a strict Constitutionalist – believed that the Constitution was inviolate, and that the Southern states that had attempted to secede needed no Reconstruction, because secession was illegal and therefore these states had never seceded (what to do with the thousands of traitors who had served in the rebel army, however, Johnson never addressed).

2. 1865 Proclamation of Amnesty – Lincoln proposed that those Southerners who were willing to take an oath of allegiance be granted full citizenship rights (except for officials and officers in the Confederate Army), and that they be allowed to set up local and state governments. Johnson added to this list of people that Lincoln had prohibited those who owned property worth more than $20,000, because Johnson believed these “aristocrats” were the ones responsible for the secession movement in the South.

3. Southern provisional governments – in Southern states not already organized by Lincoln, Johnson appointed provisional governors authorized to call conventions, which were to invalidate secession ordinances, repudiate Confederate war debts, ratify the 13th amendment, and provide African Americans with limited voting rights.

4. Southern Intransigence – the political leaders of the new southern governments looked much like the political leaders of the Confederacy (including the Vice-President Alexander H. Stephens, four Confederate generals, eight colonels, six cabinet members, and a host of minor officials.

5. Southern “Black Codes” – passage of laws restricting the freedoms of African Americans, which baldly revealed the intention of southerners in control to retain all of the trappings of slavery, even if the legal status was removed.

a. Prohibited interracial marriages, restrictions were placed upon the property they were allowed to own, and they were required to enter into annual labor contracts, with a provision for punishment in case of violation (including forced labor).

6. Land and Labor Questions – all Southerners, black and white, knew that how these questions were answered would determine the path that Reconstruction would take.

a. “Forty Acres and a Mule” – in South Carolina and Georgia, William Tecumseh Sherman issued Field Order #15, which declared that former slaves under his jurisdiction would receive confiscated land, and an army mule to work it.

7. The failure to follow through with this plan led African Americans to have to accept the system of sharecropping. President Johnson forced Sherman to retract this policy.

8.Freedmen expectations – because they had created most of the wealth for southern planters, many freedmen expected to receive land as compensation for their labors.

9. Promotion of self-sufficiency – by providing freedmen with land, they would be able to become self-sufficient, able to grow their own food.

a. Gang labor – resisted by freedmen, because it reminded them of restrictions they had under the slave system.

b. Required freedmen to sign year-long labor contracts, and provided that those freedmen who could not prove that they had such a contract at the beginning of each year should be arrested, and their labor sold by the government to the highest bidder.

10. Sharecropping – emerged as kind of a compromise between freedmen and southern plantation owners, where freedmen rented land from plantation owners, who usually “furnished” sharecroppers implements, animals, a place to live, seed, and food in return for a share (usually at least half before freedmen paid back the owner for whatever had been furnished).

a. Obviously, this system was open to abuses by the owning class, who often took advantage of the fact that the freedmen were often illiterate. Too often, this in fact turned into a system of debt peonage, with freed families falling deeper and deeper into debt, with no hope of ever paying it off.

11. Political conflict – the initial high hopes that many (including many members of Congress) held for the leadership that Johnson would provide were dashed as the President to weak or no action against atrocities against freed people in the South – conflict that culminated in Johnson’s impeachment (which like our own recent experience, was an act of more political than criminal import).

a. “Punishment for traitors” – initially, Johnson promised severe punishment for officials in the Confederate government, and the “aristocrats” that he felt had led the South into the war at any rate. Johnson soon began granting individual pardons to just these kinds of people, however, which contributed to his falling out with Congress.

b. Intransigence of southern states – many of the early governments formed in the South incorporated leaders who had been active in the rebellious governments, and none of these early governments made any steps toward guaranteeing rights of any kind for freed people (parallels between this and the “massive resistance” that white southerners demonstrated during the civil rights movement—“the Second Reconstruction”)

c. Presidential pardons – despite Johnson’s rhetoric, he granted (eventually) hundreds of presidential pardons, many to the very people he vilified months before as aristocrats.

d. Repudiation of secession and debt – for Johnson, this ended the secession crisis, when the former Confederate States repudiated the debts incurred during the Civil War (refused to pay them, which punished those creditors who loaned the governments money), and the states who attempted to secede agreed that secession was not a right states had.

III. Rising influence of the Radicals

A. Defense of African American civil rights – the imposition of the so-called “Black Codes” demonstrated to many Republicans that more would have to be done to “reconstruct” southern society than simply end slavery.

B. Refusal to seat southern delegates – in January of 1867, the final act of the sitting Congress was to refuse seats to the newly-elected southern representatives; this marks the beginning of Radical Reconstruction.

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