top of page

Reconstruction

In Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address he emphasized that the cause of the war was slavery and so to end the conflict slavery itself needs to end. He goes further criticizing supporters of slavery, especially those who also read the Bible, by saying that it is strange for people to pray to God for slaves to make their food. Here it seems that he is trying to say that God is on the side of the Union but instead includes all Americans at fault since there was still slavery in the Union and that America benefited from 250 years of the peculiar industry and so the war was what America deserved. Two years prior to his Second Inaugural Address, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which freed all slaves in rebellious States. This proclamation solidified the Union cause and Lincoln did so by arguing that the office of the Presidency had the power to abolish slavery in rebellious states since the President had the Constitutional authority to deal with insurrection and slavery just so happened to be the cause of the insurrection. Lincoln knew that the only way to permanently abolish slavery and secure suffrage for Black Americans there needed to be amendments to the Constitution. These amendments became the 13th and 14th amendments. Lincoln ends his final public address, a couple days before his assassination, by addressing how many voters in Louisiana have sworn loyalty and supported the passing of the 13th amendments and promoted opening schools and protecting Black men voting rights. He argued that the Federal government and the American people should recognize and welcome the free-state supporters of Louisiana instead of scorning them and rejecting their progress. Lincoln planned for a reconciliation worth supporting.

In Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address he emphasized that the cause of the war was slavery and so to end the conflict slavery itself needs to end. He goes further criticizing supporters of slavery, especially those who also read the Bible, by saying that it is strange for people to pray to God for slaves to make their food. Here it seems that he is trying to say that God is on the side of the Union but instead includes all Americans at fault since there was still slavery in the Union and that America benefited from 250 years of the peculiar industry and so the war was what America deserved. Two years prior to his Second Inaugural Address, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which freed all slaves in rebellious States. This proclamation solidified the Union cause and Lincoln did so by arguing that the office of the Presidency had the power to abolish slavery in rebellious states since the President had the Constitutional authority to deal with insurrection and slavery just so happened to be the cause of the insurrection. Lincoln knew that the only way to permanently abolish slavery and secure suffrage for Black Americans there needed to be amendments to the Constitution. These amendments became the 13th and 14th amendments. Lincoln ends his final public address, a couple days before his assassination, by addressing how many voters in Louisiana have sworn loyalty and supported the passing of the 13th amendments and promoted opening schools and protecting Black men voting rights. He argued that the Federal government and the American people should recognise and welcome the free-state supporters of Louisiana instead of scorning them and rejecting their progress. Lincoln planned for a reconciliation worth supporting.

In his speech on Reconstruction Lincoln shows mercy to the rebellious states and citizens by exercising a broad presidential pardon to those who swear allegiance to the United States. This provision did not include high ranking military personnel or politicians who left the Union in support of the Confederation and required ten percent of the voting population of each Confederate State to swear the oath mentioned above. It is interesting that Lincoln would exclude certain people since in his Second Inaugural Address he blamed everyone for the war and yet he is treating some rebels differently than most. The oath of loyalty was necessary given that the rebels abandoned the Union to set up a new Confederate government but also because the values of the Confederacy were antithetical to the Constitution such as not recognizing equal individual rights

After Lincoln’s assassination, his VP Johnson became president and took reconstruction into a different direction. In Johnson’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, he excluded even more people from the benefits of rejoining the Union including those with taxable property values above $20,000. This act reflected Johnson’s views on the war being a class issue and showed clemency to everyone under a certain wealth bracket. This sped up the reunification process which means that the necessary amendments to secure freedom for former slaves had to include states that fought to defend slavery. Johnson was against acts such as the Civil Rights Act of 1866 which extended citizenship and equal protection to everyone regardless of race, color, or previous status of servitude. Given that this act would extend liberty and the recognition and protection of individual rights and that Johnson vetoed it under the pretense that it violates “States’ rights” it shows that Johnson was in favor of States violating individual rights. Lincoln thought the opposite; he did not want States violating individual rights since it was antithetical to justice; Johnson allowed that kind of injustice to occur since he feared that the Federal government would violate State’s rights. The problem with Johnson’s argument is that States don’t have the right to violate individual rights and so the Federal government stepping in and protecting individual rights is not a violation of States’ rights. Because of Johnson’s leniency to the South, the former Confederate States began passing laws known as the Black Codes that brought back the spirit of slavery along with conserving the slave era political, social, and economical status of whites over blacks. The Black Codes themselves prevented Black Americans from renting property in certain places and prevented them from marrying Whites. The codes also regulated labor such as requiring limited contracts to be made with Black workers and if the worker quits before the end of the contract then the wages are forfeit.

Radical Reconstruction was the response to Johnson’s Reconstruction since the Southern States were violating individual rights. Congress passed the Reconstruction Act of 1867 which divided the States into five military districts until the States established a proper Republican form of government that protects individual rights. It was under these conditions that the 14th Amendment was passed. The 14th Amendment essentially did two things; redefined citizenship to include everyone regardless of race and status of servitude, and gave the Federal government the authority to ensure individual rights are protected from State governments. These acts are supported by the Constitution since it grants Congress the power to determine citizenship and not States while all governments must ensure due process and protect fundamental rights which are in the 5th Amendment and Article Four respectively.

Lincoln prepared America for reconciliation by establishing the cause of the war and who is at fault (everyone), while also proposing how the States could reunify peacefully and with justice. This required Amendments to protect individual rights and mercy to Southern States. This plan did not go into effect since Lincoln was assassinated and instead Johnson lead Reconstruction with too much mercy for the South and not enough justice for victims of slavery and racial discrimination. This radicalized the Republican party to the point that they militarily occupied the South and bullied them into passing the Amendments that seemed to protect individual rights but were only words on a piece of paper and after the compromise Southern States began Jim Crow.

8 views0 comments

Related Posts

President's Pardon

The President's pardon is a political tool the chief executive has in their arsenal which allows them to check the power of the judiciary. If an innocent defendant goes through the judicial system and

The President's Cabinet

When the delegates at the Philadelphia Convention designed the Constitution they debated the structure of government and how to best implement a proper separation of power and system of checks and bal

bottom of page