Reconstruction, 1863-1877

By Sean Jordan,2014-04-12 21:53
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Reconstruction, 1863-1877

    Reconstruction, 1863-1877Teaching Notes #4

    I. The Meaning of Freedom

    ~Reconstruction: the period of the United States history in

    which the nation tried to adjust to the new conditions created

    by the Civil War

    A. Breaking down Slavery

    1. In 1865, the states ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the

    Constitution, thereby abolishing slavery.

    2. During the Civil War, African Americans in the South often

    simply stopped obeying their owners as soon as Union

    troops were reported to be nearby; they had no doubt that

    they were, or very soon be, legally declared free.

     B. What Freedom Meant to African Americans

     1. New African American Organizations

    -Being labeled as “free” meant that African Americans

    now had the liberty to move about and live wherever they


    -Across the South, freed people withdrew from

    congregations with both white and African American

    members and formed their own churches.

    -They also founded thousands of voluntary organizations,

    including mutual aid societies, temperance clubs,

    debating clubs, drama societies, and trade associations.

     2. Education

     -Freedom also meant education for African Americans.

    -In 1860, it is estimated by historians that up to 90% of

    adult freed people were illiterate.

    -Slave codes had often prohibited teaching enslaved

    people to read and write.

    -In 1862 a wealthy free African American woman from

    Philadelphia named Charlotte Forten had gone to Port

    Royal, South Carolina, to teach African Americans; she

    later described the enthusiasm she found:

    ~I never before saw children so eager to learn…Coming to

    school is a constant delight and recreation to them…Many of the grown people [also] are desirous of learning to read. It is wonderful how a people who have been so long crushed to the earth…can have so great a desire for knowledge, and such a capability for attaining it.


    3. Political Involvement

    -African Americans held state conventions and rallies;

    they wanted the political rights of citizenship: to vote, to

    hold office, to serve on juries.

     4. Land Ownership

    -Freedom also meant the right to own property, the

    ability to pursue whatever line of work they chose, and

    the power to determine what they produced.

    -Freed people throughout the South also sought the

    redistribution of land; they argued that they were entitled

    to the land on which they lived, even though it belonged

    to white people.

    -General William Tecumseh Sherman and his forces

    arrived in coastal South Carolina and Georgia in late

    1864; therefore the land came under the military rule of

    the U.S. Army.

    -On January 16, 1865, General Sherman issued Special

    Field Order No. 15, in which Sherman reserved the Sea

    Islands of Georgia and a 30-mile-wide strip of coastal

    land south of Charleston for eligible African American


    -By June 1865, roughly 40,000 African Americans were

    living on 400,000 acres of land that Sherman had set

    aside for them.

     C. The People of White Hall Plantation

    1. The story of the Arnold familyRichard and Louisa and

    their childrenthey owned a plantation near Savannah, Georgia.

    -Richard moved the family North to Rhode Island, as he

    did not favor secession, nor did he support the South.

    -Richard sold While Hall to his son Thomas, who

    supported the South.

    -Because of Richard Arnold’s opposition to secession,

    White Hall was declared exempt from Sherman’s Special

    Field Order No. 15 (Sherman’s land redistribution order).

    -The Arnold’s were lucky to have saved their plantation,

    as most southern planters had lost everything.

    2. A Postwar Plantation

    -Upon his return to the plantation in Savannah, Thomas

    found significant damage to the mansion, but even more


    astounding, he found that the attitude of his former slaves

    had changed drastically.

    3. New Working Relationships

     The revolution of our social fabric is too great, the entire upheaval and overthrow of all the foundations of our society too universal not to affect everybody. ~a Georgia doctor during Reconstruction

II. Three Plans for Reconstruction

     A. Helping Freed People

    1. Freedmen’s Bureauestablished by Congress in March

    1865, the purpose of the bureau was to provide aid to freed

    people and help them make the adjustment to freedom

     B. Lincoln’s Reconstruction Plan

    1. Lincoln offered a pardon, an official forgiveness of a crime,

    to any Confederate who would swear allegiance to the

    Union and accept the end of slavery.

    2. Confederate military and government officials and those

    who had killed African American prisoners of war were

    excluded from Lincoln’s offer.

    -When 10% of those who had voted in the 1860 election

    had taken the oath in their state, that state could hold a

    constitutional convention.

    -After the delegates had written a constitution endorsing

    the Thirteenth Amendment, their state could be returned

    to its proper place in the Union.

    3. Some Radical Republicans wanted terms that would be

    much more difficult for southern whites to accept.

    -Radical Republicans passed the Wade-Davis Bill in July

    1864under this legislation, the terms a Confederate

    state had to meet in order to return to the Union were

    almost impossible to fulfill.

    -Lincoln refused to sign this legislation, and because

    Congress had closed for the session after passing the bill,

    Lincoln’s refusal to sign it amounted to a veto of the bill.

     *Think and consider* Why would the successful passage of this legislation be counter-productive? Why did Lincoln refuse to sign it?

    -The point was to get the southern states that had seceded

    back as a part of the Union, not to make it nearly

    impossible for them to comply with the terms and not be

    able to fulfill them. Hence the word Reconstruction…


     C. Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction Plan

    1. April 1865, John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln in the

    head in Ford’s Theater, killing him and turning over the

    presidency to the former Vice President, Andrew Johnson. 2. Johnson is Moderate

     -Johnson granted 13,000 pardons to former Confederates in


    3. Southern defiance

     -Once southern state governments were established, they

    quickly worked to undermine Johnson’s terms for


     -The southern states enacted black codes, which were laws

    that severely restricted the rights of freed people.

     D. The Radical Plan for Reconstruction

    1. March 1866, Congress passed a Civil Rights Act in order to

    ensure equal rights for African Americans in spite of black

    codes, but President Johnson vetoed it.

    -It then switched course and proposed the Fourteenth

    Amendment to the Constitution, which became law two

    years later.

     2. Protecting Citizen’s Rights

    -No state can…”deprive any person of life, liberty or

    property, without due process of law, nor deny to any

    person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the

    laws…” ~Fourteenth Amendment

    -The amendment also provided for the punishment of

    states that did not permit African Americans to vote.

     3. Controlling the South

    -Military Reconstruction Act of 1867legislation passed

    by new Congress dividing the South into five military

    districts that were to be governed by northern generals.

     4. Controlling the President

    -Congress also attempted to limit the power of President


    -Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act, which dealt

    with the President’s power to hire and fire officials.

    -When the President tried to fire Secretary of War Edwin

    Stanton, a Radical Republican, the House of

    Representatives voted to impeach Johnsonto charge

    him formally with wrongdoing in office.


    -Under the Constitution, officials impeached by the

    House are then tried by the Senate, which by a two-thirds

    majority can convict the official and remove him or her

    from office.

    -Seven Radicals refused to vote for the conviction of

    President Johnsontherefore, he was not impeached.

     E. The Last Reconstruction Legislation

    1. Fifteenth Amendmentproposed in February 1869 and

    ratified in March 1870, it stated that no citizen could be

    denied the right to vote “by the United States or by any State

    on account of race, color, or previous condition of


III. Reconstruction in the South

     A. Republican Support in the South

    ; Significant problems faced the Republican plan for

    Reconstruction in the South.

    1. White Republicans in the South

    -carpetbaggers: northern Republicans who moved to the

    South after the Civil War

    -scalawags: a term that means “rascals,” referred to

    southern whites who became Republicans

     2. African Americans in Office

    “Now that we are free men, now that we have been lifted

    up by the providence of God to manhood, we have

    resolved to come forward, and, like MEN, speak and act

    for ourselves.” ~1865 African American state

    convention addressed to the people of South Carolina

     B. Republican Policies

     1. Economic Development

    -Republicans in the south worked to improve economic

    conditionsspecifically through land redistribution and

    economic development through the emergence of more

    railroads, banks and businesses.

     2. Voter Anger

    -Many of the policies enacted during the first years of

    Reconstruction were ineffectual, and the state officials

    from the North often accepted bribes.

    -Worldwide demand for cotton was falling; in 1875,

    cotton production was at the same level as that of 1859,


    but the profits reaped from the crop were significantly


     C. Changes in Southern Agriculture

     1. Debt Peonage

    -Southern white planters would sign former slaves to

    labor contracts, loaning them money in exchange for a

    written contract forming the basis for all debts to be paid

    before moving.

     2. Sharecropping

    -sharecroppers: farmers who grew a crop on land owned

    by someone else; in return for use of the land and

    supplies, the farmer gave one third to one half of the

    annual crop of the landowner.

    -tenant farmers: farmers who paid cash for the rental of


     D. Whites Attack Reconstruction

     1. The Ku Klux Klan

    -KKKan organization that began as a social club in

    Tennessee in 1866

    -Leaders of the KKK included planters, merchants,

    lawyers, and occasionally ministers

    -each member took an oath in which they promised to

    “defend the social and political superiority” of whites, to

    vote for only white candidates, and to protect whites

    against what the Klan called the “aggressions of an

    inferior race”

     2. The Compromise of 1877

    -Rutherford B. Hayes became President in exchange for

    promising to remove all federal troops from all southern

    states; therefore, Southern Democrats would regain

    complete control of the region.

IV. The Retreat from Reconstruction in the North

     A. Becoming an Industrial Power

    1. Industrial production in the United States rose by 75%

    between 1865 and 1873.

    2. In 1873, the U.S. reached a new milestone: it now had more

    industrial workers than farmers.

    3. The nation ranked second only to Great Britain as an

    industrial power.


     B. The Republicans Abandon Social Issues

     1. African Americans Remain Powerless

     2. The Postponement of Women’s Rights

    -United States Sanitary Commissionformed in 1861,

    coordinated local organizations dedicated to providing

    medical aid and other assistance to soldiers; 200,000

    northern women served in it

    -After the war, close to 1,000 women went south to teach

    African Americans.

     “If I were to give free vent to all my pent-up wrath concerning

    the subordination of women, I might frighten you…Suffice it, therefore, to say, either the theory of our government is false, or women have a right to vote.” ~Lydia Maria Child, to Charles Sumner in 1872

     3. Unhappy Farmers and Working People

     -Farmers and working people challenged Republicans to extend more rights to them; as a result of these feelings, strong protest movements arose in the late 1800s on the nation’s farms.

     4. The Significance of Reconstruction

    -By the year 1877, Reconstruction had essentially fizzled

    out of the social and industrially-focused nation.

     Word Count: 1,883


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