Monday, February 9, 2009

Reconstruction - Feb 2009

What issues (both short and long term) need to be addressed?What other issues do you assume exist?Who is capable of and responsible for addressing them?What are the priorities of reconstruction? Who decides what the priorities are?Who or what is expendable or can be sacrificed in this process?How can you measure the efficacy or success of the recovery plan?


Cole said...

Personally, I feel that Reconstruction should have looked like a compromise, one in which the North helped the South rebuild in order to stem feelings of animosity and unify the nation once more. The south was devastated by the Civil War. Over 600,000 Southerners died and thousands of slaves abandoned the plantations to fight with the North. This, coupled with Sherman’s March, a destructive rampage through Georgia and the Southern coast, left a swath of flames, burned plantations, and death. Following the end of the war in 1865, the North granted little economic aid or physical help to the impoverished and desperate Southern states. In fact, in 1865, the United States spent $103,294,501 on public works, of which the South received just $9,469,363 (Zinn 206). This proved to be a terrible mistake, as “[v]iolence began almost immediately with the end of the war” (Zinn 203). From this point until the end of the 19th century, the KKK organized hundreds of lynchings, burnings, and beatings in revenge. However, these deaths and clashes could have been avoided if the North had helped the South, instead of hampering it. This was a time for “reconciliation between southern and northern elites” (Zinn 205). For decades, Henry Clay, House Speaker and presidential nominee, urged compromise, and would have likely accepted the South back with open arms. Unfortunately, Clay died in 1852, and the Northern Elites in power at the conclusion of the war lacked the morality to help the South.

Cole said...

To clarify, 260,000 Confederates died in the Civil War, not 600,000, according to Eric Foner, professor of history at Columbia University.

Cole said...

To expand on my previous post, I believe that Reconstruction should have incorporated a gradual emancipation of slaves, rather than the immediate emancipation that came with Lincoln’s proclamation in 1863, followed by the 13th Amendment in 1865. These acts advanced society and made it more equal, but they also decimated the Southern economy, which relied almost entirely on slavery. Following the Emancipation and freeing of the slaves, “the economic lives of planters… were transformed… [and] planters found it hard to adjust…” (Fonner 5). As a result, a cycle of debt became widespread in the deep South, while plantation owners devised systems like sharecropping and wage labor to bolster what little economic independence they had (Fonner 5). Furthermore, in response to the Emancipation, “the Ku Klux Klan… formed in Tennessee… to terrorize blacks… as whites [became]… more certain that their old way of life [was]… being threatened” (Pinzler 2). However, these two negative results of Reconstruction could have been stopped, if slaves were gradually freed. Over this time period, Southerners would have had more time to adjust to the changing economy by relying on other forms of labor, like cotton production. In addition, the KKK and other secret societies might not have formed. If Reconstruction had been more lenient to the South, perhaps Southerners would not have taken revenge on blacks. Perhaps the reign of terror, murder, and violence that tore apart the nation from the 1860s until the 1920s could have been avoided.

Tessa said...

This is Tessa, again, and I’m still pretty sure that my name doesn’t show up.

I strongly disagree with Cole that emancipation should have been gradual. My first reason for this is that after the effort blacks put into the war, they deserved to be freed. According to Historian James McPherson, "Without their help, the North could not have won the war as soon as it did, and perhaps it could not have won at all” (Zinn). In the same text, it is written that 200000 blacks were in the army and navy. A gradual emancipation would likely not have freed these people. In some northern states, including our own Connecticut, gradual emancipation had already been used. David Parsons of the Yale-New Haven Teachers institute defined CT’s emancipation policies. In 1784, a law was made freeing slaves born after that point when they reached the age of 25. If the same ideas had been used across the South, 25 years would pass before a single slave was freed, and those who had fought in the Union army would have nothing to show for it. Although gradual emancipation would have been easier for much of the white population, it would have been entirely unfair to those who were still enslaved.
My second reason is less about morals and more about politics. According to the Constitution, slaves could not vote. Despite this, they were counted as 2/3 of a person when calculating totals for the House of Representatives. This meant that the voting power of Southern Whites was inflated. Just as the votes of people in Vermont count for more than those of Florida when electing the president today, the votes of southern whites would be worth more, giving them undeserved political power. By immediately freeing the slaves, Northern democrats tried to retain their hold on the federal government. Zinn acknowledges this, writing that “There was also the powerful interest of the Republican party in maintaining control over the national government, with the prospect of southern black votes to accomplish this.” Unfortunately, after Lincoln’s assassination, Andrew Johnson did little to help this cause. Johnson “clashed with Senators and Congressmen who…supported equal rights and voting for the freedman” (Zinn). Even with Johnson’s lack of support, blacks were still voting, but it turned out not to be enough. In the compromise of 1877, Republican gave up any hope of equality in the south in order to retain the presidency.
However, for “that brief period after the Civil War in which southern Negroes voted, elected blacks to state legislatures and to Congress, [and] introduced free and racially mixed public education to the South,” there was some small semblance of equality. A gradual emancipation would have prevented this brief era from occurring. In essence, that short time period is what I think reconstruction should have looked like. The government should have assisted in prolonging the period of growth for the black population. The KKK could have been immediately cracked down on. Instead, the authorities mostly ignored racial violence, even instigating it during the more recent civil rights movement. Without governmental interference, I doubt that a gradual emancipation would have done much to prevent racial violence. It would have delayed it by a few years or decades, but even so, eventually, all the slaves would be freed.
A slowdown of the process would have done little to help the Southern economy. Agricultural economy has always depended on underpaid workers. I think that for reconstruction to occur successfully, equal education and opportunity would need to be provided to people of all races. However, this would have led to a further draught of workers. If the entire population is educated, there is no one to till the fields. When slave labor became impossible, cheap workers were found in Chinese and Mexican immigrants. Even today, much of our food comes from farms at which illegal immigrants work for well below immigrant wage, often trapped on farms in similar ways to the sharecroppers of the past. Without these underpaid workers, the cost of southern staples like cotton would have been driven up, eventually impacting the economy of the north. Without a national economic overhaul, it seems as if there was no way to truly free the slaves.

Alexandra said...

Tessa makes a good argument for supporting the immediate emancipation of slaves. Although, it presents a difficult challenge to overcome during the reconstruction of the United States. After the Civil War had ended in 1865, the North had merged victorious and the Southern states (mostly unwillingly) had rejoined the Union. The problem that arises is being able to reconstruction the Union, while satisfying the wants and needs of both the Northern and the Southern states. Unfortunately, the man who probably would have been most capable of dealing with this issue died in 1852 before the Civil War even began. This man was known as Henry Clay, leader of the Whig party, Speaker of the House of Representatives and referred to as “The Great Compromiser”.
Henry Clay would have been the ideal man to deal with the issues concerning the North and South because he viewed the United States as a whole. He only saw to fight for the preservation of the Union, not the extension or restriction of slavery. In support of his view of the Union [Henry Clay] stated “I know no North, no South, no East, no West.” This would allow him to be unbiased when reconstructing the United States and not giving any one side (North or South) unequal support when reforming the Union. Unlike President Johnson who moved the reconstruct the South through the process of “restoration” which emphasized his leniency toward the Southern states. During Johnson’s presidency he “made it easy for Confederate states to come back into the Union without guaranteeing equal rights to blacks” (Zinn 199). This approach led to other negative effects on the reconstruction effort, such as the formation of “Black Codes” and the Klu Klux Klan. The priority and purpose of reconstruction was to bring changes in Southern society and redefine the position of blacks in American life. A biased man who favored the use of slavery in the South could not successfully reconstruction the United States as a whole. Henry Clay’s passed experience with bring others to an agreement over a troubling issue, such as the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850 proved that he would have been most sufficient in dealing with the emancipation of slaves during reconstruction. Henry Clay often questioned “How could we espouse ideals of liberty and self-determination to the rest of the world while we hold other human beings in bondage?” This view purposed by Henry Clay would have seen to push reconstruction in the right direction while helping the emancipation of blacks.

Cole said...

In response to Tessa and Alex’s comments, I believe that in a more welcoming, fair society African-Americans could have been immediately emancipated, without any negative repercussions. However, America at the time and in many areas still today, was not an equal or accepting country. I agree with Alex’s comment that it presents a “difficult challenge to overcome during the reconstruction of the United States.” Yes, the period following the freeing of the slaves was a joyous and revolutionary time for blacks, but what resulted from it was a reign of terror, so violent that Howard Zinn referred to it as a “rampage of murder.” In fact, some of my own relatives believe the South won the civil war; slaves were not technically bounded to the land but were segregated, whites still controlled the southern political and social agendas, and blacks lived in a daily fear of racist apartheid from the KKK and other terror organizations. Overall, I feel that the emancipation resulting from the Civil War was, as Zinn states, “Emancipation without Freedom.” If a gradual emancipation had been overseen and undertaken, perhaps the racist views in the South and North could have been weakened, as whites became more used to the African-American presence. Then again, whites had lived with blacks as their servants and slaves for more than 300 years, and still had not changed their opinions. Overall, I completely agree that slaves deserved freedom, but they did not deserve the racist, unfair, segregated society that came with immediate emancipation. Unfortunately, blacks lived in a society shocked and angered to see blacks freed, a feeling that might have been lessened if blacks had been gradually emancipated.

Brendan said...

To add to this ongoing argument here, I think that while the aftermath was damaging, the freedom of slaves should have been immediate. I agree with Tessa that this immediate freedom was deserved. Henry MacNeal Turner had been liberated in South Carolina, and pointed out that African-Americans “ha[d] accomplished much. [They had] pioneered civilization [in America]… worked in [the] fields, and garnered [the southern white man’s] harvests, for two hundred and fifty years… [they] [we]re [also] willing to let the dead past bury its dead; but [wanted their] RIGHTS. .. .” (Zinn 200). The work they had done was truly deserving of that freedom as summarized by Turner. Also, the government had tried something similar to gradual emancipation. In Article 1, Section 9 of the United States Constitution, written in 1787, it is stated that “[t]he Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight….” ( The law stated that in 20 years, the slave trade would be down, which would likely be a step towards emancipating slaves. This act would only increase the amount of slaves being used and would make the situation worse, as now the South would see a timeframe on a significant business of theirs and try to get as much out of it as possible.
In terms of those overseeing Reconstruction, I agree that Henry Clay would have been a good choice. His help with the Compromise of 1850 was crucial in keeping the US together (at least for a little while), and his unbiased nature was clear in his “…denounc[ing] [of] the extremists in both [the] North and South…” ( The denouncing of extremists is important, as the goal of Reconstruction should have been to take steps in reuniting the nation. Andrew Johnson, despite declaring in his first State of the Union Address that the Union has to “…avoid hasty assumptions of any natural impossibility for the two races to live side by side in a state of mutual benefit and good will” (ABC-CLIO: Andrew Johnson: annual message (1865)), instituted those black codes, and as a result not only made it harder for blacks and whites to live equally, but also went back on his word and was more lenient than he probably should have been toward the South. These actions would hinder the success of Reconstruction.

Scott said...

Adding on to what Brendan said, the black codes instituted in the south deeply hampered the progress of reconstruction. This was the fault of the federal government, as they failed to take a stronger stand on the rights of African-Americans. To individually point a finger, Andrew Johnson is most responsible for this as he vetoed many reconstruction acts such as the Civil Rights Act. He was later impeached, in part do to this lack of controlling reconstruction in the south. The opinions of Southern veterans could not be immediately changed by federal laws, but the codes they were enacting allowed them to legally discriminate. Federal laws were needed to ensure equality to African-Americans, but this did not happen until over 75 years later. Reconstruction's goal was to reunite the country, but the state of blacks was the main thing separating the two halves. The conclusion of the Civil War forced the states (especially the south) to abide by federal decisions. Congress needed to then exercise this power and take control of reconstruction. It wouldn't be pretty, but a radical and immediate approach was necessary. For example, southern states should not have been allowed to re-enter without strict guidelines on the treatment of African-Americans (a requirement that Johnson did not enforce). Also, discrimination and segregation in public places should have been outlawed. All of these laws would not have taken effect very "peacefully" in the first generation, solely because it is impossible to change the culture and opinion of a grown population. These laws would leave imprints in following generations, and change the views of an entire nation

Curtis said...

In terms of this post, I agree with Cole. With the issue of emancipation, and the freeing of slaves, I concur to the extent that slaves at the end of the Civil War should have been slowly emancipated. Freedom should have taken place some time, but not immediately. Thus, slaves should have been emancipated at a gradual rate, because freeing them immediately would be a shock, physically, mentally, economically, socially, and politically to both the whites and the blacks.

The quote of “Article 1, Section 9 of the United States Constitution, written in 1787, it is stated that ‘[t]he Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight….’ (” was not the government’s means of trying gradual emancipation. In 20 years, the slave trade would be closed, which would exactly be a sudden step in emancipating slaves. I disagree with the quote of “this act would only increase the amount of slaves being used and would make the situation worse, as now the South would see a timeframe on a significant business of theirs and try to get as much out of it as possible.” because what would happen after those twenty years for the south? All of a sudden, no input of slaves into the southern economic system would exist. Slaves were not gods, as they did not live forever. The South would be deprived of their only economical means. During the Civil War, former Virginia governor Henry S. Wise claimed that if “[tons] of former slaves were free to roam without restriction, they could “wreak havoc upon [their] masters without remorse and with such ferocity, that slavery itself would look like an innocuous act”(Wise). Thus, Lincoln, knowing of the tension existing between the North and the South, compromises as he writes a letter to the Congressmen from the border states, warning them of his upcoming Emancipation Proclamation. In it he states, “I do not speak of emancipation at once, but of a decision at once to emancipate gradually.”

If slaves were freed immediately, America would be thrown into a state of radical pandemonium, especially for slaves. In fact, freeing all slaves at once in America would result in major setbacks for all blacks in America.
First off, slaves were already used to working under specific conditions, as most lived and worked on a farm or plantation. Over generations, they unwillingly submitted to their subordinate status.

Once freed, the slaves would most probably flee to the North. Yet, if all slaves were freed at the same time, they could never survive in North.

Slaves, once released, would unknowingly resubmit to subordinate classes because they were uneducated, had no skill whatsoever in terms of economic means in the north, and had little capacity to excel due to their minimal, if any, education. It is valid that slaves were skilled in farming, as they had worked on plantains for generations, yet farming was not a main source of income in the North.

So what would the slaves do? Go back to their masters? If the slaves went back to the South, they faced multiple problems. They faced groups such as the KKK, and faced racism as a whole. Their former masters surely would be unwilling to pay them, yet if they wished to, they probably could not. Like Cole stated earlier, if the North distributed more of an equal sum to the South, and released slaves from slavery over time, the Civil War itself may have been avoided. As small amounts of slaves were released from slavery, both the South and the North could educate them without pressure, and the South, could most likely pay the freed slaves for their work. Indeed, releasing all slaves from slavery at once creates a lot of problems. The South would have lost its economic means which would impact the South significantly. The South’s cost and production would have risen and become much higher, and the freed slaves would not have been able to survive themselves. With the South’s property taken away from them their economy would have already been in jeopardy and they would not be able to pay the freed slaves.

After decades, possibly generations, if slaves were released from slavery gradually, society may have been able to accept the emancipation of slaves, little by little, educate them, and allow them to become a paid working class.

*It is also important to not submit oneself into believing that the Civil War was fought in the name of slavery. The war was fought over states rights, with slavery being only a little part of it.

Michael said...

I definitely agree with Cole’s idea that the North should have taken full responsibility for the Reconstruction in the South in order to help better repair the relationship between the two sides. However, I disagree with Cole’s and Curtis’ idea of slaves being freed slowly.
First, I think that it is impossible for us to assume that if slaves were only partially freed at first, they would have eventually been totally freed at all. With leaders such as Andrew Johnson, who vetoed the Civil Rights Act and pushed for black codes, it seems unlikely that slavery would have been ever abolished if not done quickly. Black codes, in a way, attempted to extend the racist fear and hate of African Americans that came from slavery, which shows the reluctance of the nation to change. We cannot believe that with such racist leaders that slavery would have been completely ended.
We also must realize that the partial abolition of slavery would have only increased the havoc in the south. Dubois points out that ““these slaves had enormous power in their hands. Simply by stopping work, they could threaten the Confederacy with starvation….It was this … that brought Lee's sudden surrender. Either the South must make terms with its slaves, free them, use them to fight the North… or they could surrender to the North with the assumption that the North … must help them to defend slavery, as it had before.” (As qtd in Zinn). Going into the war, slavery presented conflict with the addition of new states, but it also presented problems during the war. Lee knew that the slavery needed to be addresed and dealt with so as not to create further mayhem and confusion.
Also, we know that the congress and the country were pushing for abolition as there were 400,000 signatures to end slavery by 1864 (Zinn). It was also important to satisfy the needs of the country according to the congress in order to establish the federal power of the state power, which was the driving force behind the war.
Finally, the complete abolition of slavery provided the African American community with the ability to travel and unite. A slow abolition process would have caused more problems that it would have solved and would have prevented the African American community as a whole from coming together to fight racism. We can also see that leaders such as Lee knew that slavery much be dealt with in a clean fashion, rather than partially, and we therefore must assume that it was the best choice to do that.

Michael said...

Just to clarify, I'm Michael F.

Elizabeth said...

In regards to debates previous to my own post, I agree with Tessa in that the emancipation of the slaves immediately was necessary. While I see the logic in what Cole argues, freeing the slaves was essential for the North’s victory. Historian James McPherson said that without the blacks help, they would not have been able to win as quickly as they did, if at all. And as Du Bois said in his Black Reconstruction, “Simply by stoppng work, [the freed blacks] could threaten the Confederacy with starvation. By walking into the Federal camps, they showed to doubting Northerners the easy possibility of using them thus, but by the same gesture, depriving their enemies of their use in just these fields…It was this plain alternative that brought Lee’s sudden surrender” (Zinn).
Economically, I do not believe Reconstruction was a success. As Cole quoted before me, “the United States in 1865 had spent $103,294,501 on public works, but the South received only $9,469,363 of that” (Zinn). The majority of the war was fought in the South, yet the received less money to makes repairs and advancements. It was especially needed after Sherman’s March, not just the war, as Sherman and his men reeked havoc in the South upon their return to the North. Money should have been properly distributed to those who actually needed it the most.
But to go back, I’d like to question the term “Reconstruction.” In my mind, to reconstruct is to change and rebuild something differently from how it started. While slavery was not the main cause of the Civil War, it did play a part, and I do believe it played an important role in the aftermath of the war. Obviously, before the war, blacks had it bad in the North and South. Fredrick Douglass “knew that the shame of slavery was not just the South’s, that the whole nation was complicit in it” (Zinn). And as he said in his Independence Address on July 4th, 1852, “There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these Unites States at this very hour…America reigns without a rival” (Zinn). Yet this attitude did not improve. During the war, when the blacks left the south and came to the Union’s aid, “what happened to blacks in the Union army and in the northern cities during the war gave some hint of how limited the emancipation would be, even with full victory over the Confederacy” (Zinn). Blacks were attacked, given less pay, and were assigned the hardest jobs. As Zinn also said, “the Constitutional amendments were passed, the laws for racial equality were passed, and the black man began to vote and to hold office. Cut so long as the Negro remained dependent on privileged whites for work, for the necessities of life, his vote could be bought or taken away by threat of force. Thus, laws calling for equal treatment became meaningless.” I particulary like how Cole worded it early, that “slaves were not technically bounded to the land but were segregated, whites still controlled the southern political and social agendas, and blacks lived in a daily fear of racist apartheid from the KKK and other terror organizations.” Even with the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments passed, blacks were not given full liberty and equality after Reconstruction. Jim Crow Laws and the status “separate but equal” continue to prove this point. Places such as Turner County High School in Ashburn, Georgia, just had its first ever integrated prom two years ago ( Despite any amendments and laws passed at the time, I believe Reconstruction was a failure in regards to the full emancipation of blacks and distribution of government funds.

haylee w said...

I agree with Cole and here is why…. The north should have given the south more money to the south. For example the north was given more money where no war was fought and South received just $9,469,363 (Zinn 206) where the war was fought and essentially burned. I believe that if the south had been given more money to the south there would have been less hostility towards the north and especially towards blacks, that had been emancipated by the north .I also don’t believe that the north took into consideration how detrimental emancipating the slaves would be to the south’s economy, Due to the emancipation and a huge amount of debt there was madness the south creating hostility between ethnicities and towards the north. This lead to the creation of the KKK. According to the KKK’s annual lynch report they had killed 4,733 persons, 80% that were black. I think that if the North considered their options and were less concerned about themselves and more concerned about rebuilding the “nation” and in doing that help more in the rebuilding of the south, as well as giving them more money, and a gradual emancipation of slaves so it was less detrimental to the south’s economy.
Like Tessa said “ the blacks put a huge amount of effort into the war.” and I feel that by immediately emancipating them under the pretences that they would be equal to the “white man” wasn’t right. I think that the emancipated slaves were treated the same if not worse than they were in slavery. For example these people were now thrown into a world full of hostility towards them as well as a huge amount of debt in the south due to their immediate freedom. An example of this is the Jim Crow laws. I know the staring sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me is not true, and here is how I know why. Although the slaves were beaten by their slaves masters the laws of the nation the barred them from voting such as the grandfather clause hurts a person who believe they should be a citizen much more than a punch in the face.
The reconstruction could have been made much easier if the north was less focused on the fact that they won and more focused on rebuilding a good relationship with the south. They could have easily done this by slowly emancipating slaves. As I said before I agree with Cole on every point that he made.

haylee w said...

this is haylee w
I agree with Cole and here is why…. The north should have given the south more money to the south. For example the north was given more money where no war was fought and South received just $9,469,363 (Zinn 206) where the war was fought and essentially burned. I believe that if the south had been given more money to the south there would have been less hostility towards the north and especially towards blacks, that had been emancipated by the north .I also don’t believe that the north took into consideration how detrimental emancipating the slaves would be to the south’s economy, Due to the emancipation and a huge amount of debt there was madness the south creating hostility between ethnicities and towards the north. This lead to the creation of the KKK. According to the KKK’s annual lynch report they had killed 4,733 persons, 80% that were black. I think that if the North considered their options and were less concerned about themselves and more concerned about rebuilding the “nation” and in doing that help more in the rebuilding of the south, as well as giving them more money, and a gradual emancipation of slaves so it was less detrimental to the south’s economy.
Like Tessa said “ the blacks put a huge amount of effort into the war.” and I feel that by immediately emancipating them under the pretences that they would be equal to the “white man” wasn’t right. I think that the emancipated slaves were treated the same if not worse than they were in slavery. For example these people were now thrown into a world full of hostility towards them as well as a huge amount of debt in the south due to their immediate freedom. An example of this is the Jim Crow laws. I know the staring sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me is not true, and here is how I know why. Although the slaves were beaten by their slaves masters the laws of the nation the barred them from voting such as the grandfather clause hurts a person who believe they should be a citizen much more than a punch in the face.
The reconstruction could have been made much easier if the north was less focused on the fact that they won and more focused on rebuilding a good relationship with the south. They could have easily done this by slowly emancipating slaves. As I said before I agree with Cole on every point that he made.

Stephanie said...

Steph O.
I concur with many of the previous postings that Reconstruction should have been more a time of reuniting the North and South and rebuilding the Southern economy. Newly freed slaves should have received more support from the government and greater opportunities to improve their lives. Despite the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, I believe it was a missed opportunity to achieve equality for blacks.
The government should have followed Lincoln’s advice when he said we should reunite the nation, heal its wounds, and not seek revenge. In the words of his second Inaugural Address, we should bring the Union back together “with malice towards none, with charity toward all.” Personally, I wonder, what would Reconstruction have looked like if Lincoln had lived to reshape the peace? Unfortunately, the difficult task of Reconstruction fell to Johnson who lacked the political skills of Lincoln in getting people of opposing views to work together. This led to a strong disagreement between Johnson and the Radical Republicans in Congress over how to reconstruct the nation and a weakening of the presidency itself. Many Confederate leaders were prevented from participating in government which angered Southerners. I agree with Scott, Brendan, and Michael that the federal government and the courts should have made black codes illegal. Further, the federal government was unable to prevent white southerners from using violence and organizing groups, such as the KKK, to threaten and intimidate blacks. “Equal protection under the law” stated in the 14th amendment should have been enforced to ensure the rights of blacks and all citizens. However, tremendous injustices and inequality toward blacks continued. As Thomas Fortune from the New York Globe said, “The white man who shoots a negro always goes free, while the negro who steals a hog is sent to the chaingang for ten years” (Zinn #9, 26). Overall, I believe our nation should have strived to have blacks participate in all levels of government to better represent their interests and move forward as a more integrated society.
As others have mentioned, the national government should have taken prompt action to provide relief and funds to help the South, in response to its terrible destruction and massive economic ruin. The federal government should have redistributed land in the South and given free people the opportunity to be landowners as many blacks became poor sharecroppers living on plantations controlled by whites after the war. In agreement with Cole and others, it is apparent that the government also should have provided the South with adequate funds to rebuild their infrastructure and spur the economy. Instead, the government provided the North, which had less destruction, with greater funding than the South. It appears to me that if the South had received greater funding, the overall economy could have been rebuilt faster as more raw materials sent to the North would in turn augment the amount of manufactured goods being sold.
Further, there should have been more social support provided to newly freed blacks to help them adjust to their new freedom. Personally, I think reuniting slave families that had been separated was critical to restoring the lives of those individuals involved as well as rebuilding the social structure of the black community. Another priority, I believe, should have focused on public education, regardless of skin or gender, to give everyone the opportunity to acquire the skills and knowledge to train for new jobs and improve their lives. Many southern states instituted segregation of facilities by race and limited the occupations open to blacks, actions that should have been illegal. Unfortunately, blacks had to endure many decades before these barriers were broken.
If Reconstruction had achieved a united union, stronger economic recovery, great job opportunities, and better protection of the civil liberties of blacks, it would have changed the course of history. Our country could have redeemed itself and prospered as a united nation during this period had there been a more effective ‘Reconstruction.’

Luke said...

Luke C.

Although I'm sure my view is heavily biased based on my pool of knowledge, I agree with Cole that the emancipation of slaves shouldn't have been instantaneous, but I don't agree with a simple gradual emancipation. I believe that that much of the southern aggression, especially the extremely vicious actions of the Ku Klux Klan, could have at the very least been diminished by slowly weening the South off of their reliance on slavery. The tremendous damage done to the South, especially through detrimental acts such as Sherman's march, was going to cost the region an enormous amount of money, and "With billions of dollars' worth of slaves gone, the wealth of the old South was wiped out," (Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom). An effective way to slowly diminish the South's reliance upon slave labor would be to introduce a probational share cropping system, where "[The negro] was usually paid in 'orders,' not money, which he could use only at a store controlled by the planter," (Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom). This system would keep the southerners in control for a short while longer, and would last for a predetermined period of time regulated by federal law. After this period of time, the former slave would own his land, and be free to spend his revenue any way he pleased. This would solve the problem of the South's economy, slaves' lack of purpose, employment, and land, and would please abolitionists seeking to see slaves freed. Furthermore, this would appease southern citizens who saw "...the public debt of South Carolina, $7 million in 1865, went up to $29 million in 1873..." (Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom) directly after blacks began taking office. Finally, I also agree with Cole in the fact that the North should have aided the South, instead of humiliating and demoralizing her. Out of the $100 million spent on public works in 1865, the South received less than one tenth of it, yet it had seen every battle that took place and had lost a huge portion of its male youth (Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom). I believe that a prime candidate for heading such a plan would be Roger Taney. Unfortunately, few people trusted him after his decision in the Dredd Scott Case and much of his political influence was lost after Jackson left the presidential office. Furthermore, he died just before the end of the war, nonetheless his political views and attitude would have made him an effective leader due to his support of the South, while still being able to maintain some impartiality due to his experience in the Supreme Court.

Joanna said...

I agree with Alexandra in response to Tessa's argument. In an ideal world slaves would have been free immediately, but what type of freedom would they have been granted? Cultural beliefs cannot be changed overnight. I believe that the problems with Reconstruction parallel the problems with The Treaty of Versailles. In both instances the victor kicked the loser while they were down. Sherman's march showed this as the Union left a path of destruction while marching back up North. This type of childish behavior is why the South was so angered. However, the South was to blame as well. They would not accept their defeat despite the words of General Robert E. Lee saying that "we have fought this fight as long, and as well as we know how. We have been defeated. For us as a Christian people, there is now but one course to pursue. We must accept the situation." Lee was right, the battle had been won and the South had to accept that fact.
Issues that needed to be addressed include patience, monetary losses, cultural equality, and uniting the nation. The North, as said by historian Howard Zinn "did not have to undergo a revolution in its thinking" (207). The North needed to recognize that changing decades worth of beliefs would take time and the North needed to allow this time, while encouraging and enforcing change. The problem with Reconstruction, though, is that the North expected rapid change and the South refused to change at all. Henry Clay, the Great Compromiser, was needed here, to find a middle ground in which both sides could progress at a reasonable rate. Yes, both sides needed to progress in their thinking. The South had to make radical change of fundamental beliefs, but the North also had to change some ideologies because for the past four years they had been fighting against part of their country and now they had to accept them and treat them equally again.
Also, I agree with Haylee about monetary compensation. The South received just $9,469,363 (Zinn 206) which was not even one tenth of the money the United States spent on public works after the war. The majority of the war was fought on Southern grounds and the money spent after the war did not reflect that. The North was stubborn and because of that obstinate behavior both sides suffered greatly. The South suffered financially, but the North suffered because now they had a large part of their country in wreckage, bringing down the entire country.
Reconstruction also needed to unite the nation and overcome cultural differences, which it did very poorly. This is evident because these issues still exist today. Civil War reenactments prove that this country isn't as united as we like to think we are. Also, separate proms and schools still denoted as "black" schools prove that we are far more primitive in our acceptance then we like to believe.
I believe that it was the responsibility of both sides to compromise and to forsake petty arguments and actions, such as Sherman's march, in order to put the Union first. In my opinion, the main problem with Reconstruction was that both sides were not ready to give in on anything. The North and South both wanted to win completely. But the problem that neither side saw was that at the end of the day, they were all one country and so the problems of one side were the problems of both. And therefore, if both sides had realized this fact and accepted that they were one country, I believe that Reconstruction would have looked very different and the issues of race may not still exist today.

Chester said...

This is Chester just in case my name doesn’t show up.
I agree completely with what Cole said about how the North should have helped the South in reconstruction but, I disagree with what Michael said about the North taking full responsibility for reconstruction. If the North takes full responsibility for putting the South back together, they are implying that they are better than the South and know how to fix it better than the people who live there. Unfortunately, the North took full responsibility for reconstruction and only spent 10% of the money for public works on the South (Zinn 206). As I mentioned in my statement in Around the Horn, there were 381 battles in the Civil War and 353 of them were in the southern sates ( The fact that only 10% of the money was given to the South despite the fact that the war was fought there and that Sherman’s March completely destroyed areas of Georgia showed that the North saw the South as inferior and thought they could use the South to make money for themselves.
I also agree with Curtis that the slaves should have been emancipated slowly rather than immediately but, for more than just the reason of a social and political shock. If the slaves were given freedom immediately there would have been riots and many murders of the slave’s former masters.
One example of a free black man being killed was Charles Caldwell, a former slave who was later elected to the Mississippi Senate. He was shot at by the son of a white Mississippi judge and he shot back at the man and killed him. In court he argued self defense and was set free, “But on Christmas Day 1875 Caldwell was shot to death by a white gang.”( Zinn 204)Having blacks become free before the animosity cooled off would be a bad idea and would result in many unjust beatings, rapes and murders.

kelley said...

I agree with what Chester said about the North helping out with Reconstruction, but not taking complete control. I think that if the North was really trying to create a "Union", then they should have wanted to help the South with Reconstruction since they were now part of the same government, together. I think that Reconstruction should have definitely been a compromise, but not one where the North was doing most of the work. Although it is clear that the South needed most of the money and help, I think that it is important that we started working as a union, despite the conditions. Regarding the emancipation of slaves after the war, I agree with Curtis and Cole. When describing the aftermath of the war, Zinn states, "Violence began almost immediately with the end of the war" (Zinn 203). Although it is impossible to tell what would have happened if we had gradually freed the slaves, I think it is safe to say that this "violence" could have been stopped or lessened. However, it is also difficult to tell how the emancipation could have been performed. Who would decide which slaves could be emancipated? What would qualify one slave over another slave to be emancipated? It's impossible to figure out how one could "gradually" emancipate slaves, but it is a smart concept out of the context of the time. With such brutal acts like rape, burning of homes and churches, and riots ending in mass deaths, it is clear that this plan did not work. Not only did the emancipation of all slaves hurt the people, but also the economy of the South. Zinn states, "With billions of dollars' worth of slaves gone, the wealth of the old South was gone" (Zinn 206). Could there have been a fair way to free the slaves without forcing the South to depend on the national government for "credit, subsidies, flood control projects" (Zinn 206)? Was there a way to meet the needs of both the North and the South during this time?

emily said...

The civil war, I believe, was generally caused by issues over states rights and slavery so this ideal reconstruction should have properly addressed these issues by gradually (but completely) eliminating slavery and resolving the issue of federal versus state powers.
I agree that the emancipation of slavery should have been a gradual process so as to ensure the South's successful economic reconstruction. Lincoln's 13th amendment removed the driving force behind the South's economy and although this force may have been inhumane I think that it should have been resolved in a more supportive way to the South. This amendment left the South struggling to rebuild. Zinn says, "With billions of dollars' worth of slaves gone, the wealth of the old South was wiped out. They now looked to the national government for help." A more efficient reconstruction plan would have taken advantage of the South's need for the government's support and unified the nation under a fair and equal plan of rebuilding.
Secondly, the ideals of the Confederacy had to be completely removed. States had to realize that secession was not an option. The solution to this was strengthening the role of the federal government and emphasizing the unity of the nation. Unfortunately, President Johnson (being a Southerner himself) was too lenient with Southern States and he "made it easy for Confederate states to come back into the Union without guaranteeing equal rights to blacks" (Zinn 199). The consequences to Johnson's leniency were severe and the racial hatred towards blacks grew stronger than ever with "black codes" and the KKK as well as other anti-black mobs began going after blacks.
The plan of reconstruction should have emphasized the nation's unity with a strong federal government and not only eliminated slavery but also its racist roots.

Emily C. said...

In response to Joanna's comment:

I too believe that Henry Clay would have been the right man for the job of reconstructing the South, in part because of his tireless attempts to salvage the union, and his skill in forming compromises, but in addition, his American System.

The American System was first mentioned by Henry Clay in 1824 with the intention of strengthen[ing] and unify[ing] the nation..." Aspects of this plan included the "development of a system of internal improvements (such as roads and canals) which would knit the nation together and be financed by the tariff and land sales revenues." The knitting the nation together is the key part of this plan, as regardless of whether the slaves were to be emancipated gradually or immediately, the South was not going to be happy about it. For a smoother reconstruction, I think that American System-esque plans must be put into action.
I think of Henry Clay's American System as a precursor to FDR's New Deal. Both Clay's American System and FDR's New Deal created jobs which united the nation in a time of need.

I also think that societal support systems should have been put into affect to ease the integration of African Americans into white society. Emancipating the slaves was not enough, they can be freed but they cannot just be left to fend for themselves in a society which they have little to no experience with. Perhaps the reason that newly freed African Americans found themselves stuck in a vicious cycle of sharecropping was because the only life many had experience with was a farming/slave labor existence and once they were freed they did not know what else to do with their lives. These support systems should have prevent African Americans from returning to a slave-like state.

Nicole said...

I agree with Cole's original idea about the gradual emancipation of slaves, but I also think that Kelley's questions about how the process actually could have been gradual are extremely important to consider. In response to Kelley's questions, I feel that there was no gradual solution that could have solved the problem of slavery while bringing the Union back together. A swift action needed to be taken that could give instant results--good or bad.

So, I do not think that gradual emancipation could have been accomplished, even if it would have been most ideal. Reconstruction, in my opinion, was so poorly executed because of the incredible imbalance between the sacrifices of the South and the concessions of the North. The social shock of suddenly having free blacks may have been less tumultuous if it was not accompanied by the economic shock of having billions of dollars of worth suddenly disappear. As many people have already pointed out, the emancipation of the slaves completely "wiped out" the wealth of the South. Such a result was only to be expected, but where Reconstruction went wrong was in the way the national government dealt with the result. After the South found most of its wealth gone, “[t]hey… looked to the national government for help: credit, subsidies, flood control projects. The United States in 1865 had spent $203,294,501 on public works, but the South received only $9,469,363” (Zinn 16). The lack of monetary compensation is what really pushed the South to the “violence [that] began almost immediately with the end of the war” (15). It was too hard to deal with both a social and economic crisis after the war. The social aspect was out of the national government’s hands, but the economic situation could have been controlled more fairly. It is because this fact was overlooked that the South held on to their potent resentment for the North and the immediate emancipation of slaves was so disastrous.

Michael G said...

I semi-disagree with Tessa and Brandon, both of whom said that the U.S. should have granted slaves immediate emancipation simply because they deserved it. It is obviously true that they deserved it, but that hardly changes anything, and does not necessarily mean that the government should have given slaves freedom immediately. Just because it was morally in tune to free the slaves and give them automatic liberties does not mean that this should have been done. In fact, as a result of the slaves being freed, the KKK was formed and "black codes" established all over the South, which pretty much made the black's freedom meaningless and made for an extremely uncomfortable, segregated crowd between whites and blacks, furthering the animosity between the two groups and forming a lifestyle not too far off from slavery for blacks. According to the Spartacus online database, these codes placed “severe restrictions” (Spartacus Online) on freed slaves, “prohibiting their right to vote…their right to testify against white men” (Spartacus Online) and other restrictions which simply put slaves in chains in another way.
This enmity between whites and blacks was charged by the sudden freedom of blacks. George Leonard, Ph.D., in his book Mastery, discusses how the human body and brain resist change as a way to maintain homeostasis. He says that “homeostasis works to keep things as they are even if they aren’t very good” (110). This is the same, in many respects, with how the Southerners reacted to the sudden “change” in our country, namely the liberation of the slaves. Because of this sudden turn in the direction of liberty, the southern whites reacted similarly to how the body would if someone went running and hadn’t done so in thirty years; they said “Warning! Warning! Significant changes in respiration, heart rate, metabolism. Whatever you’re doing, stop doing it immediately” (111). If the government of the U.S. had gradually increases liberties for the slaves by giving them meager pay, and then maybe letting them live on their own, and then gradually placing restrictions on the way their owners treated them, eventually leading to complete freedom, it would have been very similar to what a human body does to get in shape; slowly start running short distances every day, increasing the distance occasionally. Everything in moderation. Instead, during reconstruction, our metaphorical “human body” of a country went and automatically released all of the slaves. You can’t run a marathon after sitting on the couch for your whole life.

Stephanie said...

This is Stephanie N. by the way.
I disagree with the people who wrote that the gradual emancipation of the slaves was the best idea for Reconstruction. While I recognize that immediate emancipation of the slaves would have resulted in even more economic damage for the South, the freedom of the thousands of people should have been a greater priority. I think that it would be near-impossible to “gradually” free the slaves. Who was to say which slaves were freed and which had to wait? The idea of gradually giving them rights seems ludicrous to me. If you are eventually going to grant African-Americans full citizenship, why make them wait? They were already not full-citizens so, to me, it seems that just dragging out the process of granting equal rights is like having a dog run on a treadmill with a treat dangling in front of its face. The dog runs and runs to get the treat, but it never will. Blacks waited and fought for their emancipation, why dangle the treat in front of them any longer?
I agree with what some people wrote that the immediate emancipation of slaves may have contributed to the violence after the war. As Zinn said, “the violence mounted through the late 1860s and early 1870s…” (Zinn p.203). However, I do not think that the freedom of African-Americans was the sole cause for the violence. I feel like the North almost didn’t want the South to return to it’s former-economic glory and preferred to be the dominant of the two halves of the country. I think this is why, for example, “Maine got $3 million, [and] Mississippi got $136,000 (Zinn p.206). The North wanted to be the ones in charge, and as the victors, had the job of appropriating money to the South for Reconstruction. The South received a fraction of the money the North did. I firmly believe that if the North and the federal government had been more responsible in giving money where is was really needed, the animosity in the South towards Northerners and African-Americans would have been less severe. If the South had been given money, the existence of “freed slaves like serfs, still working the plantations” would not have occurred (Zinn p.199). If the South had had the money to rebuild, the need for a semblance of slave-labor would not have been so great. Additionally, white Southerners might not have blamed African-Americans as much for their situation, which would have diminished racism and its negative effects.
The Civil War is different from most other wars that we’ve fought. Usually, we go in and fight, solve the problem and then leave and don’t have to deal with the other side. But in this war the sides had to live with each other in order to make the country successful. In response to Kelley’s question of whether or not the needs of both the South and North could be met during Reconstruction, I think that they could have been. The North wanted the South back into the Union and the slaves freed. Although the South wanted their slaves to remain slaves, they also wanted money to rebuild. Immediate emancipation of slaves, large sums of money going to the South for Reconstruction and allowing the South quickly back into the Union would have meet the wants of both sides of the war. I think that doing these three main things, among others, would have pacified both sides and allowed them to rationally talk and make the country successful.

Catherine said...

I think that one of the main issues with the "reconstruction" that took place, was that there wasn't much reconstruction.

I understand what Tessa is saying about how the African Americans fought in the Civil war so they should have been granted their freedom. However, when looking at this issue from a purely economic point of view Cole brings up a good point. The immediate emancipation of the slaves of the south was not a good idea.

Lincoln basically issued an ultimatum to the south. Ultimatum almost never work out, and in the end someone always looses. Lincoln's act of freeing the slaves was not one of grandeur, but one of desperation. Lincoln wrote in a letter to Horace Greeley, "If I could save the union without freeing any slave, I would do it;" In fact the london spectator wrote that "The Principle [of the emancipation proclamation] is not that a human being cannot justly own another, but that he cannot own him unless he is loyal to the united states."

After knowing that, you cannot possibly see lincoln as the great president whom freed the slaves, and thus you have to question his motives of doing so, Du Bois wrote that "Simply by stopping work [the slaves] could threaten the confederacy with starvation."

Without the slaves the south had no choice but to surrender and seek help in the north. During reconstruction, since the african americans were no longer slaves, the south had no cheap labor to work their fields.

The way in which Lincoln financially crippled the south is amazing.

If we were to apply this to current day, it would be like passing a law saying that american companies could no longer export labor to Asia.

To add insult to injury, the north (the United States) spent $103,294,501 on public works in 1865 only $9,469,363, of which went to the south. It is amazing that it didn't take the south longer to recover from the Civil War.

Ellen said...

I agree with Elizabeth and Tessa and many others who believed that the emancipation of slaves should have been immediate in order to repay them for their efforts in the war. Although the slaves were nationally emancipated with the 13th amendment to the Constitution, I do not believe that this actually made them free. As Thomas Hall, an ex-slave, told the Federal Writer’s Project, “Lincoln got the praise for freeing us, but did he do it? He gave us freedom without giving us any chance to live to ourselves...” (Zinn, 197). Although slaves may have been literally “free” in the sense that they were equal in the eyes of the Constitution, they were in no way equal in the eyes of the people of the time. Therefore I don’t think the slaves were freed immediately. It took 143 years after the ratification of the 13th amendment for Americans to elect an African-American president and racism is still prevalent in America today. Also, with the creation of black codes in the South and Plessey vs. Ferguson in 1896, creating separate but equal, blacks were clearly not free. Although it may seem the emancipation of slaves was immediate, I do not believe that slaves were immediately free. Just like literacy tests limited the voting rights of slaves, black codes limited the freedom of slaves as well.

However, I do not believe that the emancipation of slaves was truly a main problem in the reconstruction of the Union. As Lincoln expressed in his letter to Horace Greeley, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about Slavery and the colored race, I do because it helps to save this Union” (Zinn, 191). Clearly Lincoln’s goal of the civil war was not to hurt of help slavery but to reunite the union so his reconstruction plans would deal with just that. So in that perspective alone of uniting the union, I believe that reconstruction was a complete failure. As many people have said before, in 1865, the United States spent $103,294,501 on public works, of which the South received just $9,469,363 (Zinn 206). Spending money solely on the North would in no way help the South come closer. I believe that reconstruction was an extremely selfish act of the North. As students from The Dunning School, a public school built in 1876, said in the book Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 by Eric Foner, reconstruction was an attempt by “selfish politicians backed by the federal government… to Africanize the State and deprive the people through misrule and oppression” (Foner, 609). Although this may seem pessimistic, I do believe that the North was extremely abusive of their power and took advantage of their victory over the South. Although the North may have done the “moral” thing to free the slaves, they did not set up any way for them to succeed afterwards and I believe was done almost in spite of the South. Conclusively, I believe that the emancipation of slaves was not immediate and that the goal of reconstruction was to reunite the union, not to free the slaves, and therefore, it was an extremely selfish act by the North.

Jake said...

Responding to Tessa’s post, I agree that the soldiers fighting for the unions deserved full rights for their loyalty to the union and bravery in war, but I don’t agree that an immediate emancipation would have proved more effective than a long term one. In the words of our very own, beloved Mrs. Schager, “if you’re going to rebuild a society, the economy is the most important thing” (Schager). The goal of reconstruction was to rebuild the society torn apart during the war, and the economy had to be taken into the utmost consideration if reconstruction were to be successful. When, as Tessa suggested, slaves were freed immediately after the war, the economic effects were detrimental to the rebuilding of the nation. As Cole mentioned, the southern economy depended fully on the institution of slavery. With the immediate emancipation of slaves, freedmen were put in to economic positions not far worse than slavery. For instance, after President Johnson overrode General William T. Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 15 and returned the land given to freedmen to the previous white owners. It was very difficult for an ex-slave to become a landowner, and on top of their strife, the south enacted black codes, “which made the freed slaves like serfs, still working the plantations” (Zinn). In Mississippi Black Codes made it illegal for, “freedmen to rent or lease farmland, and provided for them to work under labor contracts which they could not break under penalty of prison” (Zinn). Plantation owners took the hit when the slaves they depended on for profit were torn away from them. Since emancipation happened so suddenly, instead of over time, the economic conditions of the south made it impossible for reconstruction to be successful.
Expanding on the economic failures of reconstruction, it’s necessary to mention the amount of money allotted to the south for rebuilding. After the War, the United States spent $103,294,501 on public works however; the south only received just $9,469,363, barley over 9 percent. Maine received $3,000,000 whereas Mississippi only received $136,000 (Zinn). Not only did the south occupy over half the nations land, but also the war was fought mainly in the south, meaning it needed more money for reconstruction. In a typical war, the loser would receive little to no money or even have to pay a large debt, however, this is not a typical war, it’s a civil war, and since the union won, the south is still part of the victorious nation. By not allowing the south to repair itself after events such as Sherman’s March, and not subsidizing southern pacific railroad, the union was only hurting it’s won economy thus making reconstruction a failure.

Diane said...

The civil war was a series of battles that led to great change in America; with the power of jurisdiction held predominantly by the northerners, I believe that it was up to them to carry out reconstruction “correctly.” I, like a lot of other people, think that reconstruction should have been an effort to restore the south and reform and change the relationship between the two conflicting regions. First, it was clear that the physical state of the south, needed to be rebuilt.

In the civil war, almost all of the battle took place on southern soil, resulting in mass destruction of southern property and agriculture. Not all of this destruction was even due to the violence of war; northerners raided and demolished southern farms and establishments in incidents such as Sherman’s march. In this infamous march, General William T. Sherman led an army of over 90,000 Union soldiers through Georgia and up the west coast in a demolition rampage, causing “mass destruction”(Thompson). In its path, this army ruined miles of southern crop fields and killed the surrounding livestock. In the aftermath of this bloody war, it was completely necessary that the process of reconstruction concentrated largely on restoring the agricultural eminence of the south and literally construct new farms. I feel that this was crucial to the success of reconstruction because in order to restore even a moderate sense of hospitality between the north and south, the north needed to help the south rebuild from the war’s wreckage instead of taking advantage of its weakened state. However, I feel that the north should not have “guided” the south as a superior, but worked alongside the southerners as equals with the common goal of reconstructing the union. However, it is known that the north was not as helpful as it should have been. An example that several people have mentioned was the rationing of money from the federal government for reconstruction; out of the $103,294,501 that was spent on public reconstruction, only $9,469,363, about 9% of the money, was used to restore southern property. The federal government should have paid more attention to the needs of the south by spending more money on restoring farmland and livestock populations.

Another issue that needed to be immediately attended to was the controversy over the condition of slavery in the south. It has been discussed a lot so far, and from the responses, two sides of an argument have become clear. Should the slaves be freed immediately? I completely agree that the slaves deserved immediate liberation, and I feel that they should have received it, in a sense. Instead of instantly demanding the release of all slaves from bondage instantly, maybe laws should have been established that would allow plantation owners to abolish slavery. For example, I think that if a law that made all slave owners pay their slaves well for the duration of their labor hours on the plantations, the owners would voluntarily free their slaves or accept them as paid workers. Also, regulations on the working conditions of the blacks should have been established, and all blacks should have been granted immediate citizen ship. I feel this would reduce the immediate shock of the black’s freedom in the south, and maybe help to avoid the greater animosity between the blacks and whites that was created. I also feel that the north should have extended the stay of their soldiers in the south to ensure the disbandment of organizations such as the KKK and to protect the blacks from Jim Crow Laws of the late 1800s.

These short term issues should have received attention immediately during reconstruction, but there were also long term issues that needed to be addressed. I feel that the overall main concern of the government, the north, and the south should have been to take reconciliatory action towards mending the broken union and sustaining it for the duration of American existence. I feel that it should have been the north to extend and olive branch; the south had felt threatened by the idea that “the majority make, and construes, and executes the law”(Southern Editorials on Secession), because they believed they were the minority that must “[obey] and [submit] to the laws thus made and construed”(Southern Editorials on Secession). So, it is necessary to make changes and allow the south to feel they have a voice as a part of the majority. The south also feared that they were not protected by the laws of the constitution; it is necessary to allow the south its rights. Overall, I feel the main priority of the reconstruction period should have been to reconfigure, not rebuild, the union in a way that is more equal and agreed upon by all.

Suzanne said...

I think that the people now in power are the most responsible for solving our still-needed Reconstruction. In Staples, we have so few black kids. Our “diversity” is laughable. I think that laws have done almost as much as they can. However, the arm of the law and the hand of bills can only stretch so far. We need to find it within ourselves to better equate our society.

However, filling a law and believing in it are different things.

In the Inklings rooms, we were talking about bussing kids in from Bridgeport. We looked at each other and tried to decide if we would be willing to go to Bridgeport schools, and have a student come here, for the sake of increasing diversity. But if a black student is there only for the sake of the school appearing to be diverse, then this is a fail in all aspects.

Clarence Thomas knows about this. He is the first black member of the Supreme Court. In an interview with the New York Times, Bill Keller writes “In Thomas’s mind, diversity means the black man as d├ęcor” (NY Times). If this is truly to be the instance in diversity-making measures, than it could not be more wrong.

Peter Schuck of Yale also agrees with Mr. Thomas, saying that in practice, diversity is “comically arbitrary (NY Times). He continued to say that practiced diversity (bussing, or forced intergration) is just “putting off the day that we will become something approaching a colorblind society,” (NY Times).

I agree with these men, but I wonder how they plan to single-handedly solve the diversity problem. If they have an idea that does not involve practiced diversity, then I would eagerly promote that idea.

I want schools to be diverse because there is an equal amount of black and white and Hispanic and Asian kids who live in Westport. I wish that we could achieve diversity through sheer force of will, or happenstance that there is an equal distribution of each minority in ever town. That is obviously not the case. Since I believe that further integration is necessary for a Reconstruction (because this would be sure to banish all stereotypes), then I think that enrolling more children of minority into better schools would be a positive first step.

I think that programs like ABC are a good start. But there are so few students from each grade that are a part of this program. Most students from ABC are of a minority. I think there are two kids from ABC in our grade.

This is pathetic. If we are to make a change, how are two kids in one grade an elemental change? I think that the spots for ABC kids should be much more, allowing more possibility for minority, since we can’t find it here in Westport.

I think that practiced integration, while debated, would be the best choice to take a small step towards reconstruction. Do I think it is the final answer? No, of course not, but I do believe that this is one small step that we could achieve in Staples, and that would make a difference to me.

Gabe said...

I agree with Michael Goodgame’s comment before, stating that the slaves should not have been given immediate emancipation. As stated on the Digital History Website regarding America’s Reconstruction, “As soon as blacks gained the right to vote, secret societies sprang up in the South, devoted to restoring white supremacy in politics and social life. Most notorious was the Ku Klux Klan, an organization of violent criminals that established a reign of terror in some parts of the South, assaulting and murdering local Republican leaders”. As a result of the slaves being freed, White Supremacy organizations were established, created to continue the degradation and hatred towards African-Americans. As described on the website for America’s Reconstruction, “Planters found it hard to adjust to the end of slavery. Accustomed to absolute control over their labor force, many sought to restore the old discipline”. I think that slaves had to have been freed in a very slow manner, instead of freeing all of the slaves at once. Many Americans, especially the South, had never interacted with freed slaves before, nor do I believe they ever had the notion that slaves would be freed. Therefore, instead of freeing slaves all at once, making the White population feel uncomfortable and forcing them to “retain as much as possible of the old order” (The Meaning of Freedom), the government should have taken “baby steps” in freeing the slaves. As a result of freeing slaves little by little, I find the White population have been more accepting towards African-Americans because the idea of them being free would have been presented gradually. Instead, extreme racism and hatred powered “the South's new system of white supremacy” (The Meaning of Freedom).

jkasanoff said...

The main problem with Reconstruction is that it was more the North gloating than helping the South to rejoin the Union. Whereas states like Maine (in which no fighting took place) got millions, most states in the South got just a few hundred thousand dollars to “reconstruct.” Lincoln should have given the South an incentive to stay. The Emancipation Proclamation was already in effect when the war ended, and it made sense to free Southern slaves, if only to prove to the South that they could not attempt to secede without any punishment. But after that, Reconstruction should have been used to coax the South back into the Union. Most, if not all of the money should have gone to the South (and perhaps less would have been needed, if the North had not left their trail of destruction throughout the South following the war’s end). This would teach the South that the new, federal United States would protect and help them, even if the war was between them and the North. But money would not be enough by itself.

Political compromises would have to be made. One of the biggest issues of the fight between the North and the South was that the South appeared to have no power – after all, the North had a larger number of people, and thus, any decision the South wanted to make could easily be overturned by the North. At any other, less delicate time, this would simply be the price of democracy and the South would have to live with it. However, in the light of such a vicious war, it would make sense to give the South a little more power. And, in a sense, that’s exactly what the Emancipation Proclamation could do – with the right incentives.

Finally, slaves were being counted as full people in the South. For years, they had only been 3/5 of a person, unable to make decisions for themselves. The South’s new, larger population meant that they could have more political representatives. However, this could only be helpful if the free black men stayed in the South. After years of horrible, inhumane treatment, this could prove a difficult thing to convince them to do. Reconstruction would have to include incentives for ex-slaves to stay in the South. Perhaps more acres of land could have been offered to the ex-slave living in the South. Had the South been really forward-thinking, it might have made sense for them to even give blacks the vote in their states – turn an enemy into an ally and gain more political sway than ever before. Of course, this was not likely to happen – all the hatred and fear still left after they were freed meant years and years of racism still to come.

Reconstruction should also have introduced clear, unwavering rules about how state and federal government power is balanced. Although it was clear the federal government won the power in the Civil War, it still wasn’t clear what power states had. Southern states were worried about having no power – the best way to qualm that fear was to take any and all ambiguity out of the matter. Reconstruction should have clearly laid down laws, perhaps even amendments to the Constitution, stating things like “No state has the right to nullify or void a federally issued amendment,” but also including things to make the Southern states feel better, explaining what states can control.

The most important thing was to make the South comfortable - something the North took no care to do. It’s no wonder that some people in the South think the Civil War isn’t over - we never really reconstructed our nation.

Michael G said...

While some others still think that slaves should have been freed immediately, I see no logic in this argument. Be reminded that this is the track we took, and it led to the KKK like Gabe said, and led to increasing violence in the 1860s and 70s like Stephanie said. It is undeniable to me that the gradual release of slaves was the only way to go. I realize that it would be very tough for the slaves to have to slowly (instead of immediately) gain rights, but this to me is much more acceptable than decades of fighting, lynching, and severe hatred between racial groups. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a little in order to gain a lot more, and freeing slaves gradually would have given us a lot, or at least stop the formation of hate groups like the KKK. The slow release of slaves would also allow for the slaves to learn how to fend for themselves; how do you expect the blacks to be able to farm and support a family, let alone stay alive, if they have zero experience doing these things?

With such a situation as the one that the States were presented with with the North versus the South, it is obvious that there needed to be compromise. Namely, the North needed to stop scoffing at the Southerners and needed to finally admit that the South was a lucrative base for them, and they needed their support. Both sides needed each other, and this needed to be acknowledged by both sides before they could get anywhere. The South, frankly, was being ignored by the North because "immigrants were pouring in from Europe at a faster rate than before" (Zinn 265) and also because of the "movements of workers and farmers that swept the country...revolutionary talk was in the air" (265). This is not to mention westward expansion and the railroads, which took up millions of dollars and consumed the attention of the Northern political leaders. The Southern problems were just not as important to the North, even though the South had been a major (and one of the only) asset of the economy before the war. This is why the black codes led to so much violence and hatred in places like Mississippi, and it is also why many people to this day are racist towards blacks. News flash: the North is to blame, also.

Brian said...

In the short term, the issue of Reconstruction is exactly what it sounds like. I believe that the majority of the reconstruction money should go to the "Reconstruction" of wartorn areas, especially in the south where the largest percentage of the battles and fighting took place. The main issue would be to rebuild wartorn areas to restore America. In terms of long term, I feel that the government should have put the Reconstruction money in places that would most help bring the country together as a whole. The south was already unhappy with the Government, why make it angrier by not giving it the money it required to rebuild and restore? Unfortunately, "[t]he United states in 1865 had spent $102,294,501 on public works, but the South received only $9,469,363" (Zinn 206). The reconstruction period should have been a time to bring America back together as one, rather than keeping the North and South a rivalry. This should have been "a time for reconciliation between southern and northern elites" (Zinn 205). I believe that the number one priority after the Civil War should have been to create nationalism. Instead, the government comtinued to mistreat the south by not giving it the money necessary to rebuild and restore.

sally said...

he idea for reconstruction should have been a compromise between both the northern and southern states, however instead it was a time of confusion and constant argument. The end of the Civil War brought difficult times, for the South was not happy about their defeat and the North was not sure on how to make the Confederates transition to the Union possible. The South and North, although geographically very close, considered themselves to be two completely different countries because of their separate beliefs, and to unite them after the bloody war was bound to be impossible.
After the Civil War, the country needed leaders that shared the same ideas on how to reunite the confederacy and the union, however instead Andrew Johnson was trying to pass bills that went against what Lincoln had been fighting for. During the war Lincoln had said “My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia, to their own native land…" however Johnson’s motives were the complete opposite (Digital History). The country needed a constant leader, however what they got was the very opposite. Johnson’s reconstruction plan was more towards benefiting the white southerner’s and allowing them to create new governments in the south. The people however feared that if the southerners created their own government, blacks would have no rights and their lives would be similar to that before the Civil War. Not only was Johnson’s idea disregarding the black society, he was also going against everything Lincoln had fought for prior to the ending of the war. Congress instead of going forward with Johnson’s plan, added the 14th and 15th amendments to the constitution which gave blacks their civil liberties as citizens and also gave them the vote.
The federal government was not clear on which side their allegiance lied, which is why I think reconstruction turned out to be a failure. Johnson and Lincoln’s views were too contradicting, and separated even further the southerners from the northerners. The southerners supported Johnson and his reconstruction plan, so when congress did not pass it, they got angry, especially when their slaves were freed and were given the right to vote. You could call the federal government, “two faced,” which raised confusion to all the countries citizens. The confusion eventually turned into violence, when racial groups in the South sprung up opposing the 14th and 15th amendments.

Brian said...

I believe that it was the government's job to adress the issue of how much money each state should receive to recontruct. The government should have taken into account what happened to each state over the course of the war, and what problems need to be addressed or fixed in each state. I also feel that this process would have needed to be regulated by officials to make sure that the states used the money the way that they were supposed to. To measure the success of Reconstruction, I would see if the nation became closer as a whole, and also see if the states were able to properly rebuild areas that needed to be rebuilt. Also, "[w]ith billions of dollars' worth of slaves gone, the wealth of the old South was wiped out" (206). That being said, the south lost one of its biggest moneymakers: free labor. The south not only needed money for rebuilding, but also to pay for the workers that they would need to pay, now that the labor was no longer free.

Nicole said...

This is Erica G. even though I think it may post as Nicole...I'll explain why later.

It seems as though there are only two options for how the slaves will be emancipated after the war: immediately or gradually.

In Stephanie N.'s opinion that gradual emancipation of the slaves in the South would not be ideal because the task would be impossible to follow through. How would the government even regulate gradually freeing the slaves?

However, the other side of the argument would be that if the slaves were freed gradually than the economy would not suffer as greatly. Knowing that the economy would be safer many people posted arguing that gradual emancipation would be the most ideal.

While I dissected the arguments more closely I realized that even though gradual emancipation may be more ideal in regards to the economy I agree with Stephanie that gradual emancipation would be not only be impossible but cruel to the slaves who would not be freed immediately.

Previous posts, including Cole's, stated that immediate emancipation led to violence in South between whites and blacks. Many of these posts included Zinn's quote,"violence began almost immediately with the end of the war" (203). To me Zinn's statement is not directly related to immediate emaciation, just emancipation in general. I believe that this violence would have occurred either way. The bottom line is that many Southern whites did not agree with black slaves being freed. Whether it was gradual or not I believe that violence from organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan or even just the creation of black codes would have occurred no matter what.

Therefore, I believe that the only real downside to immediate emancipation is the damage it would do to the economy, especially in the South. However, I believe that more damage was done to the economy though the actions of the government towards the South than any other way. This is due to the fact that out of the $103,294,501 the United States spent in 1865 on public works only $9.469,363 was given to the South (Zinn 206). Basically all of the battles were fought on Southern soil and the Northern troops devastated Southern land though acts such as the Sherman's March, a destructive march led by General Sherman from Atlanta Georgia to Savannah Georgia burning everything in its path. Considering this it was a major error made by our government during Reconstruction not to award the South more Reconstruction money.

However, I do not want my argument to seem as though I think the North should have tried to reconstruct the South. I agree with Chester in that Reconstruction of the South should have been controlled by the Southerners themselves but funded by our national government.

I thought that Kelley's question was extremely thought provoking yet it led me to an inconclusive answer. She asked if there could be any way to meet the needs of both the North and South. Unfortunately, I think that there is really no way to appease both sides. However, I believe the best combination of actions to be taken would be the immediate emancipation of the slaves, the government giving more of the necessary funding to the South, yet allowing the South to attempt to Reconstruct themselves.

But most importantly, I think a stronger message message should have been sent to all American people to unite them as one, after a Civil War. I believe that if many had followed the ideals of Robert E. Lee Reconstruction would have gone more smoothly. In a letter to the former governor of Virginia, John Letcher, Lee states, "All should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war, and to restore the blessings of peace. They should remain, if possible, in the country; promote harmony and good feeling; qualify themselves to vote; and elect to the State and general Legislatures wise and patriotic men, who will devote their abilities to the interests of the country, and the healing of all dissensions." I recognize that these ideals would be difficult for many Southerners to carry out, but the fact that a former general of the Confederate Army was the man who said this quote may be enough to change the minds of those Southerners.

rachel said...

Going back to what Tessa said, I believe that emancipation should have happened immediately after the war. Although Cole’s point of view is valid, it seems like in that idea; there is only benefit for the white southerners. By making emancipation a gradual process you are technically punishing blacks for something that they have gained by making them go back to their original conditions. Even as a gradual process, the southerners were going to have an economic issue. What I do believe should have happened was that the money used for public works should have been used much more towards the Southern states. Considering only $9,469,363 was given to the South out of $103,294,501, it hardly seems fair especially considering the war was mainly fought on their grounds. Adding on to the troubles the South faced, emancipation of blacks would further drag the South deeper into their money problems. Although I realize that freeing blacks would harm the Southern economy, I don’t believe that the blacks should have had to wait for freedom. If you look at the situation, really comes down to; are the blacks going to have to suffer or are the white Southern and plantation owners going to have to suffer?

However, I do agree with Cole in that Reconstruction should not have looked like it did. Sherman’s march was completely unnecessary, and the destruction that it did only left the South feeling more hostile toward the North. Sherman’s March, to me was the most significant and devastating act in the times of Reconstruction. It can be seen that “[v]iolence began almost immediately with the end of the war” (Zinn 203). I don’t understand why these acts of aggression broke out when compromising and negotiations should have really taken place.

Joe said...

The causes to the tragedy that was the Civil War continued to manifest themselves throughout reconstruction. The Civil war was caused by a large differential regarding the manner in which the United States should be run. Loose vs. strict interpretations of the Constitution were the root of all arguments. The ambiguity in terms such as:
"The Congress shall have Power - To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof."
almost begged for (and inevitably led to) disagreement over issues such as Hamilton's national bank, the rights of states, and policies regarding expansion. The point is that America lacked explicitness in perspective regarding very fundamental parts of the way in which the country should be run. How can two groups that wish to trade together disagree about the fiscal policy in the government? How can states who are supposed to cooperate at the same time oppose one another in issues as critical as slavery? Why does it take until 1850 for the north to support the south by returning to it the slaves that comprise nearly the entire labor force?
Undoubtedly, the contrast in ideas was what caused the civil war. However, the nations contradictory viewpoints carried over through Reconstruction. According to ZInn,
"When the CIvil War ended, nineteen of the twenty-four northern states did not allow blaks to vote"(207).
Isn't it peculiar that although the north spent millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of young men's lives fighting slavery, still about 80% of the states didn't recognize blacks as worthy of the right to vote. Blacks being equally human as whites was the north's problem with slavery, and according to the Constitution's "all men are created equal" shouldn't that equality extend merely beyond freedom from bondage to active participation into the white man's society.
Given that the commencement of the civil war didn't lead to immediate unification of position on fundamental issues it is no surprise that Reconstruction was not a real success.
As stated numerous times before, “the United States in 1865 had spent $103,294,501 on public works, but the South received only $9,469,363 of that” (Zinn). The same discrepancy in ideas about policy seen leading up to the civil war is just as evident during reconstruction. The south, being the loser and host to the large majority of battles, needed more resources for rebuilding, yet they received less than 10% of the funds. This is terrible for two reasons:
1. it made life much harder for the south in the years after the civil war
and perhaps even more importantly...
2. the policy showed that the problems preceding the civil war were not solved even though reconstruction

Lauren said...

I feel that the idea of gradually emancipating slaves is unrealistic because as time progresses more and more people will try to stop it from happening so only a small percentage of slaves will be freed. However as Ellen mentions, slaves should have been emancipated immediately because of their war efforts and even though the Constitution stated that blacks were equal to whites, people living did not follow this new rule. Zinn states that, “...courts could assign black children under eighteen who had no parents, or whose parents were poor, to forced labor, called apprenticeships- with punishment for runaways” (Zinn 199). Ring a bell? Even after all that blacks went through to get themselves to be called free men they were still not equal to whites. As Zinn says, “The American government had set out to fight the slave states in 1861, not to end slavery, but to retain the enormous national territory and market and resources” (Zinn 198). American was just not ready to end slavery when blacks were and because of this they made it out like blacks were weak and incapable of taking care of themselves. Peter Kolchin however studied blacks in Alabama in the first years after the war and found that, “As soon as they were free, these supposedly dependent, childlike Negroes began acting like independent men and women” (Zinn 199). The misinterpretation of blacks America has spread has condemned their name to a low value. A Columbia University scholar, John Burgess, referred to Black Reconstruction by saying, “In place of government by the most intelligent and was government by the most ignorant and vicious part of the population...A black skin means membership in a race of men which has never of itself succeeded in subjecting passion to reason; had never, therefore, created civilization of any kind” (Zinn 200).The reality however of what this man thought to be the most “ignorant and vicious” people of all times is somewhat the contrary of what is seen in the narrow minds of Americans in support of slavery. Henry MacNeal Turner, a slave that escaped at 15 and taught himself to read and write shows the intelligence of an old man and the demur and forgiveness of one of the Enlightened in his speech. “Why, sir, though we are not white, we have accomplished much. We have...worked in your fields, and garnered your harvests, for two hundred and fifty years! And what do we ask of you in return? Do we ask you for compensation for the sweat our fathers bore for you...Do we ask retaliation? We ask it not. We are willing to let the dead past bury its dead; but we ask you now for our RIGHTS...” (Zinn 201). In this simple speech that forgives that which the whites have stripped of blacks and begs whites to give them only what the whites already have, rights, do we see that John Burgess was very, very wrong when he said that blacks are uncivilized. These misinterpretations have given blacks a bad name when really they just wanted the rights that white men are born into. Reconstruction has been defined to be the time between 1865 and 1877 but I have been wondering if it has ever really ended. For hundreds of years blacks have continued to struggle in everyday society to get what whites ungratefully are given every day; an equal chance and an equal opportunity to survive in a world where the headline news of the year 2009 is the first black President.

Joe said...

Although the end of the Civil War marked a great victory in the abolition of slavery in the United States, Reconstruction was the beginning of a new war that would be fought for about a century until Dr. King came around.
Even thought the civil war marked the end of slavery in America, racism and prejudice were present throughout reconstruction and beyond. Barely months after the south loses to the north, Mississippi enacts the black codes-- a set of policies meant to limit the civil liberties and rights of blacks that were freed due to the emancipation proclamation. When you consider these codes, it is hard to find them much different than racism.
"Whenever it was required of them they must present licenses (in a town from the mayor; elsewhere from a member of the board of police of the beat) citing their places of residence and authorizing them to work. Fugitives from labor were to be arrested and carried back to their employers. Five dollars a head and mileage would be allowed such negro catchers. It was made a misdemeanor, punishable with fine or imprisonment, to persuade a freedman to leave his employer, or to feed the runaway."
Before the civil war, blacks were carried back to their master when they tried to escape. After the war, they could also be returned to their "employer" if they decided to abandon their labor. Just as before the blacks and whites who aided them were punished and those who caught fugitives were paid for such efforts. This doesn't sound like the purpose Lincoln had in mind with his Emancipation Proclamation.
Even though people say, "history repeats itself," rarely do two similar instances of calamitious outcome happen within a span of less than twenty years. In 1857, Dred Scott v. Sandford ended with a declaration that blacks are inferior to whites and that equality was unconstitutional. The nation should have learned the error in this interpretation of the constitution due to the civil war and its ramifications. Yet, in 1875 the Supreme Court ruled the civil rights act unconstitutional as well. The Civil RIghts Act gave blacks right to equal treatment in public areas and transportation. The fact that the bill passed congress indicated the ground covered during Reconstruction. When the Supreme Court cut the bill down, not only did it manifest the contradictory feelings of America at the time, it also assured the nation that more had to be done before true victory was found.

Jenn said...

I agree with Cole in terms of Reconstruction failing in economic equality. However, I disagree on the notion that the elimination of slavery should have been gradual. In regards to the inequality of Southern funding, “the United States in 1865 had spent $103,294,501 on public works, but the South received only $9,469,363 of that” as Cole and Zinn stated before me. The war destroyed the South. One-fifth of the Southern white male population died in war efforts, thus wiping out a generation. With the loss of men also comes the loss of resources. According to C. Vann Woodward in Reunion and Reaction, “By means of appropriations, subsidies, grants, and bonds such as Congress had so lavishly showered upon capitalist enterprise in the North…” During the War, which was in fact a Total War, the North strangled the South via its Anaconda Plan. After cutting off Southern resources during the war, the North supplied meager funding. Rather than further destroying the South, which was again pat of the Union, the North should have aided in repairing post- war. North and South should have been one nation, yet it remained two separate ones. The North wanted a Union and not a United States. To this day, the North and the South are both vastly different places of which harbor equally opposite individuals. Regarding slavery, I agree that slaves were competent and deserved emancipation. According to Booker T. Washington, a Roosevelt White House guest, “without strikes and labor wars, [Negroes were the] most patient, faithful, law-abiding and unresentful people that the world has seen” He goes on to say: “The wisest amount my race understand that the agitation of questions of social quality is the extremest folly” Economically, slaves enabled the nation to thrive. As well, according to James McPherson, “Without [the slaves’] help, the North could not have won the war as soon as it did…” To fight for a nation, which places them in shackles, is an indication that slaves deserved the quick emancipation. It should have been immediate and not gradual. The North did not treat the South equally in multiple factors, just as the “nation” did not treat slaves equally.

Brian said...

I also believe that another issue for Reconstruction was the treatment of freed slaves. To add on to what Lauren said, Zinn states that "Northern politicians began to weigh the advantage of the political support of impoverished blacks... against the more stable situation of a South returned to white supremacy...[i]t was only a matter of time before blacks would be reduced once again to a condition not far from slavery" (Zinn 203). What was the purpose of the Constitutional amendments that gave blacks "equal freedom"? In fact, "[t]he North... did not have to undergo a revolution in it's thinking to accept the subordination of the Negro. When the Civil War ended, nineteen of the twenty-four northern states did not even allow blacks to vote" (zinn 207). Really? That large of a percentage of NORTHERN states did not allow blacks to vote? I find it very hypocritical that the North fought a war, cost hundreds of thousands of deaths, and yet little over 75% of the Northern states did not allow blacks to vote. Besides all of this, what about the treatment of blacks outside the law? What could have been done to prevent poor treatment of the blacks that the law was unable to protect? Zinn says that "[t]he COnstitutional amendments had been passed, the laws for racial equality were passed, and the black man began to vote and to hold office. But so long as the Negro remained dependent on privelaged whites for work, his vote could be bought or taken away by threat of force" (Zinn 202-3). This is one of the most unfortunate effects of teh Civil War. Southern racists just could not take the fact that blacks were equal to them, and decided to take matters into their own hands to keep themselves "above" blacks. I feel that teh Government could have prevented this had they moved the former slaves to the north. What did they think would happen to blacks after being freed from slavery? Did they think that whites from the south would welcome them with open arms? The government had to have known that the blacks would be treated unfairly and unlawfully. So the question is, did the government really care about slavery? Was this a issue that needed to be watched and regulated?

Rose said...

The Reconstruction trailing the Bloody Civil War wasn’t a true reconstruction; our nation was never fully fixed. In order to fully reconstruct America, it would need to reconstruct or redo itself completely. The government system would need to be revised, power balanced out between the states and federal government, reasonable laws on expansion. Additionally, the issue of slavery would need to be resolved, and the fragile bond between the North and South would need to be strengthened. Unfortunately though, the only ones who are capable to fix the issues within the United States of America isn’t just the government. In order to fully fix America and hopefully bring them into a peaceful utopian state is with the help of all the people. Why was reconstruction a time of disruptions, chaos and conflict? It could have been so much better, and much more beneficial-if all of America was involved. Instead of having a corrupt, biased government a symbol like Barack Obama would have been beneficial in the presidency. He is a symbol of hope to the people, and that was exactly what was needed during Reconstruction-motivation to change, Yes We Can! Another major issue that would need to be resolved in an ideal reconstruction was the bonds between the North and the South. They were extremely separate during the Civil War due to a lack of communication, heavy taxation, and the majority rule of the North- all of which lead to the Civil War. The only possible way to fix that would be providing equal rights to both sides, eliminating stereotypes as best as possible and fixing the south. After the civil war, the south was left in ruins; “With billions of dollars' worth of slaves gone, the wealth of the old South was wiped out.” (Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Proclamation). In the reconstruction following the civil war, there were no solutions as “The country had been in economic depression since 1873, and by 1877 farmers and workers were beginning to rebel”. (Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Proclamation). The differences between the North and South were vividly illustrated when “the United States in 1865 had spent $103,294,501 on public works, but the South received only $9,469,363. For instance, while Ohio got over a million dollars, Kentucky, her neighbor south of the river, got $25,000. While Maine got $3 million, Mississippi got $136,000. While $83 million had been given to subsidize the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads, thus creating a transcontinental railroad through the North, there was no such subsidy for the South.” (Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Proclamation). However, instead reconstruction should have looked like “a time for reconciliation between southern and northern elites.” (Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Proclamation). As Woodward says, Congress lavished the North with any sorts of economic or monetary grants, while the South on the other hand received nothing, when it needed everything. It needed money as its economy was poor today, but the land within the South was destroyed from the many battles that went on in the Southern states. In terms of slavery, even during reconstruction the image of the Negro was not fixed, instead it was tarnished. The precious image of simply another race was destroyed, rather than polished like it should have been. Polished with freedom would be ideal, of course. Like any other people in America they deserved to be free citizens, with a not only a purpose in life, but rights to life liberty and property. Regrettably, the Negroes were known “in the postwar literature… as "a hyena in a cage," "a reptile,' "a species of worm," "a wild beast."” (Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Proclamation) Therefore, instead of being known as a “wild beast” to society, they should have been known as another person. Only way to do this? Demolish the institute of slavery, and once abolished make sure there isn’t any segregation either. Yes they were free, but for a number of years African Americans weren’t truly free, facing low wages, Black codes, and inferiority to whites in status. Despite their freedom, as said by social historian Zinn, “The average wage of Negro farm laborers in the South was about fifty cents a day, Fortune said… He was usually paid in "orders," not money, which he could use only at a store controlled by the planter, "a system of fraud." The Negro farmer, to get the wherewithal to plant his crop, had to promise it to the store, and when everything was added up at the end of the year he was in debt, so his crop was constantly owed to someone, and he was tied to the land, with the records kept by the planter and storekeeper so that the Negroes "are swindled and kept forever in debt." (Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Proclamation). Freedom from slavery? Yes. Total freedom granted, and free from the constraints of others? No.

margot said...

I agree with Erica in that Kelley's previous question regarding the possibility of meeting the needs of both the North and South is very thought provoking.
I feel as though it would have been impossible to do this, especially after the violence that came about even after the war. I agree with Erica that the most important part of the reconstructive process would be for the North and South to start taking action as a Union. In regards to the more specific aspects, I believe that slavery should have been abolished immediately following the end of the war. I recognize that the wealth of the South was greatly dependent on the existence of slavery, however the affects of a gradual emancipation are far more cruel than the economic issues that would have followed. Slavery needed to be abolished in order to fully rebuild the South. If this did not happen then the process of reconstruction would just face continuous economic set-backs as slavery was gradually abolished.
After Sherman's March, the South was put in far worse destruction than what had been caused by actual battle. The majority of the funding from the government should have been given to the South in order to begin to rebuild the region rather than the $9.469,363 given to the South out of the $103,294,501 the United States spent in 1865 (Zinn 206). Taking into account the dissatisfaction of the North, I must argue that the North was not in need of the majority of the funding, and if the Union was going to be prosperous, the North would benefit from the reconstruction of the South.
In all I feel as though the best course of action would be to immediately emancipate slaves, give the majority of the funding to the South as a form of reparation, and begin to work as a Union in order to achieve normalcy amongst the prosperity of the states.

Ali said...

I think Cole and Curtis and their ideas of emancipation of blacks expanding over some time would have been a better decision for the government. In my post about cultural inferiority I make a reference to Gorbachev and the Soviet union, and how he tried to save his nation by instituting a fast economic change, which soon led to the fall of the USSR. A similar situation occurred during Reconstruction, because "[with] billions of dollars' worth of slaves gone, the wealth of the old south was wiped out" (Zinn 206). The South lost its main trade, the foundation of its economic entity. So, the result was a not just a war torn south but a south without money, food, and education, because they could not fund any of that. Even worse, the people they desired help from would not give it to them.

The South was greatly exhausted by war and debt and "They now looked to the national government for help: credit, subsidies, flood control projects" (Zinn 206). The help was hardly received. As some other students have already said, the South did not receive the majority of Reconstruction money. This is mainly due to a weak federal government and a lack of southern representation in its meeting rooms. The Radical Republican party greatly outnumbered any other political group in Congress and the Senate at the time, and Souther Democrats were hardly represented. There was better resentment between the two parties because the north and south were so divided economically, politically, and socially. The best way to execute Reconstruction would have been to strengthen the federal government so the north and south could openly converse about their issues. If more power was given to the federal government, then State power would have declined, and I believe most of us agree that states rights and power was the most substantial reason for the start of the war, or at least a key player.

I believe Edwin Stanton and I would agree that making the federal government stronger would have greatly aided Reconstruction. Mr. Stanton was a lawyer who dedicated his life to trying to keep the nation together, and he knew through all of the differences between the north and south, that the only way to bring them together was to expand the influence of the federal government. He and his fellow radicals "believed that Reconstruction represented a "golden moment" during which they could swiftly institute far-reaching social and economic changes in the South... These politicians sought to take control of Reconstruction from the president, and to use more powerful federal government to guarantee civil and political rights (including the right to vote) for the freedmen" ( encyclopedia Reconstruction). Andrew Johnson was not doing so well on Reconstruction, because he "started to reconstruct the former Confederacy while congress was not in session in 1865" ( This created some hostility between northern Republicans and southern Democrats, and the only way to solve the problem would have been to bring these people together. The radical Republicans knew how to execute Reconstruction but Johnson and his ideals were very different from the rest of Congress. A nation divided politically, economically, and socially is not unified, and to solve the issues between the north and south the federal government should have been more powerful.

SABRES said...

This is Nick M.

I believe that the country would have greatly benefitted if Reconstruction had been much different. First of all, I believe that rather than having the North control the terms of Reconstruction, representatives from the North and South should have worked together to fix the wounds that the Civil War caused the country. Together, they should have discussed the priorities of Reconstruction including the path they now wanted the country to take and the distribution of federal money between the North and the South. According to Howard Zinn, a famous social historian, “With billions of dollars’ worth of slaves gone, the wealth of the old South was wiped out. They now looked to the national government for help. The United States in 1865 had spent $103,294,501…the South only received $9, 469,363…While Maine got $3 million…While $83 million had been given to subsidize the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads, thus creating a transcontinental railroad through the North” (Zinn 206). Perhaps it is understandable that the North wanted the South “to pay” for the death and destruction caused by the Civil War, but it was in the best interest of the country that the North and South be reunited and that the South be helped to restructure its economy. I believe that it was completely wrong that the North was given the majority of the money for Reconstruction, while the majority of the battles (and damage) took place in the South. Why did Maine need 1/3 of what the entire South got? Why did the North need the majority of the money? What was the point of only having the railroad go through the North? The South should have received much more money and support. I believe that if the government had given more money to the South, Reconstruction would have been more efficient, gone faster, and relations between the North and South would have been much better.

While reading, “Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom,” Zinn brought up an important point. Zinn wrote, “The North, it must be recalled did not have to undergo a revolution in its thinking to accept the subordination of the Negro” (Zinn 207). For the past hundred years, the South relied on slaves. The strength of the Southern economy was based in large part on slaves. They cleaned houses, cooked dinner, grew crops, took care of plantations, and did many more things. Since the South lost the war, they had to completely change they way they lived and change their economy. Therefore, I believe that slaves should have been emancipated gradually and not immediately. The South needed time to transition from one style of life to the completely different style of life and agreeing to immediately eliminate slavery was not an acceptable option for them. I believe it was wrong of the government to force the South to so drastically change its economy rather then give the South time to gradually transaction away from slavery. Had the South been given this option before the war began, it is possible the war could have been avoided.

Charlotte Corbo said...

In my personal opinion, I believe that The Reconstruction should have been much more focused on the economic aspects of America during the 1870s in order to make a step towards Civil Rights.
I entirely agree with Cole's dominating idea that the North should have taken full responsibility for the South in the era. I believe that Andrew Johnson should have use his presidency wisely. Instead of approving "black codes" to help reconstruct the South more promptly, congress should have offered the construction of more ports in the South, creating more trade and the initiative of urban societies down there. I disagree with Stephanie's accusation that the Reconstruction should not have been a slow process nevertheless. If we were to rapidly change the Southern Ideals, then the adjustment would have been to abrupt. Imagine telling a farmer he has to work in the city, not so much time for the farmer to breathe now.
Salmon P. Chase had the right mind set for this ideal, since he was Chief Justice he decided to appoint Jay Cooke as treasurer and proposed the Third Legal Tender Act, an act which chartered banks whose currency was largely based on their holdings of U.S. bonds in 1863 (Niven 331). Essentially this reconstruction became much more focused on legislative power than economic equality since, as Cole pointed out from Zinn, "This was a time for “reconciliation between southern and northern elites” (Zinn 205).

Farrel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Farrel said...

As evinced by the numerous posts by the other students in Mrs. Schaeger’s classes, there are two ways to proceed with Reconstruction: what we actually did- immediate emancipation, and as some believe, what we should have done- gradual emancipation. The problem is, everyone is making their judgments from different standpoints- arguing on moral, social, economic, or political grounds.

Tessa argued for immediate emancipation, stating that morally “after the effort blacks put into the war, they deserved to be freed.” Curtis believed that as well, claiming on a social basis that “slaves, once released, would unknowingly resubmit to subordinate classes because they were uneducated.” Conversely, Cole argued for gradual emancipation, as he said the Southern economy “relied almost entirely on slavery,” with the gradual freeing of the slaves, “southerners would have had more time to adjust to the changing economy.” Michael used political evidence, noting that from the immediate emancipation of slaves after the war, “black codes" [were] established all over the South, which pretty much made the black's freedom meaningless.”
All the evidence used by my fellow classmates is strong, and definitely proves their point. However, we need to decide- what is the most important? What holds more weight- our conscience, or our wallets? Our government, or our everyday life? Before one can decide what Reconstruction should have looked like, as the question asks, we need agree on the priorities of Reconstruction, as well as who should be responsible for carrying them out.
Nevertheless, on an individual basis, I wish I could say what was morally correct was my highest priority, but I really would have to say the economic effects, as that affects my quality of life. Because of that prioritizing, I agree with Cole and Curtis, and believe gradual emancipation is certainly what should have occurred during Reconstruction. It would have given farmers time to lessen their dependence on African-American slave labor, as well as allow the job market to prepare for an influx of unemployed African-Americans.
Instead, “the freed slaves [were] like serfs,” (Zinn 199), “average wage of Negro farm laborers in the South was about fifty cents a day,” and those farm laborers were “swindled and kept forever in debt,” (Zinn 209). As a result of immediate emancipation, the economic state of the freed slaves was unsatisfactory, and the slaves were nearly “reduced once again to conditions not far from slavery” (Zinn 203). With gradual emancipation, the freedmen would have been able to acquire more stable, satisfactory jobs with higher wages.
Looking at the situation from the other side, one may argue that after fighting so valiantly in the war, the slaves deserve immediate emancipation, but educator Booker T. Washington once said, as stated by historian Howard Zinn in his book A People’s History of the United States, “Negroes…were the ‘most patient, faithful, law-abiding and unresentful people that the world has ever seen,’” (Zinn 208). As the African Americans were patient, they would be fairly understanding when presented with the policy of gradual emancipation, knowing it would greatly improve their societal and aforementioned economic standings when emancipated.
Also, I believe, although deceased before the time period, Henry Clay should have been the authority figure capable of and responsible for addressing the issues with Reconstruction. I agree with all the previous points made by Cole, Alexandra, Joanna, and others that prove his ability to hold the position. I won’t state all the reasons at risk of being repetitive, but will note that being “the Great Compromiser,” Henry Clay hopefully would have made a compromise between the abolitionists and the anti-abolitionists, and created a vital policy of gradual emancipation during Reconstruction.

charlotte said...

Henry Clay died before the Civil War even started, but I am pretty sure if had lived to see reconstruction, he would have wanted to handle it very differently. He was the great compromiser and he wanted the country to remain a union. He was a large part of the Great Compromise of 1820 where Maine became a free state and Missouri a slave state. He was constantly trying to keep both sides happy. He did not want to push the South to its limit because he knew this would probably lead to war. That is why if he had been alive after the Civil War, he would most likely have wanted to give the large majority of the reconstruction money to Southern states because they were greatly affected. He would have wanted them to be able to rebuild in order for them to rejoin the union as easily as possible.
I also believe that emancipation should have been more gradual in order for reconstruction to be more successful. The North won so therefore they wanted slaves to be free but they did not necessarily think in the slaves’ best interest. A person cannot go from being treated like an animal, working for no pay, not being allowed to read or write, and then be expected to be able to fit in with modern society. The fact that slaves were now free also did not change racist opinions of Africans. People, especially in Southern states were still extremely racist, and it was not a safe environment for freed slaves. Howard Zinn talked about Charles Caldwell, a slave-turned-Senate member who was shot by a white man and then shot back. Caldwell killed the other man and then went to trial, where he was the first black man to ever kill a white man and go free. After the trial, however, Caldwell was still not safe. “Caldwell was shot to death by a white gang. It was a sign. The old white rulers were taking back political power in Mississippi, and everywhere else in the South” (Zinn 204). Even though slaves were now free, many people were extremely opposed to that idea and were not willing to change their beliefs.