Reconstruction: a Success Only After the Fact

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Reconstruction: A Success Only After the Fact
Teresa Gil

Reconstruction, the act of putting the country back together after the divisive and bloody Civil War, is the era from the end of the Civil War until 1877. Because so much was at stake and there were so many variations about how Reconstruction should be accomplished, this was a period of enormous conflict. In the South, the primary battle was between the Planters who dominated the South economically, politically, and socially, and former slaves, who wanted legal and political equality and the ability to own land. In the federal government, the Republican Party was dominant, and the most outspoken group within the Republican Party was known as the Radical Republicans. They were the northerners who were most bitter toward the planters and the most dedicated to winning equality for former slaves. In 1865, the Radicals nevertheless came to dominate Congress with their calls for significant political and legal change in the South.
One of the central conflicts within the government concerned President Johnson’s unwavering conviction that his methods were the only methods and his refusal to change any of his laws. He tried to take charge of Reconstruction, offering a plan by which the southern states would write new constitutions and re-enter the Union without having to allow political rights to the freedmen. When Johnson’s plan was put into effect, many northerners were disgusted by the results. Former Confederate leaders were elected to high positions, and Black Codes were drawn up by the new states that severely restricted the freedom of the former slaves and seemed, in some ways, to continue slavery. Congress refused to accept the new governments, and after the refusal of Johnson to modify his “state governments”, Republicans refused to seat those elected under Johnson’s plan. Johnson’s refusal…...

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