Reconstruction and the Post-War South Essay

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"African-Americans as a matter of our highest law were in fact no more citizens than cattle. " -- Ira Glasser, Legacy of Racial Subjugation, 2014

The end of the Civil War left many questions for both the North and the South. The federal government was faced with the responsibility of rebuilding the South and reuniting the country politically, economically, and culturally. At the war’s end, the country was left to grapple with 200,000 deaths and over a million casualties, more than any other war for the United States, either past or since[1]. The turbulence of the era left the countryside and the economy of the South in ruins. Plantation owners, the antebellum economic lords who ruled with an iron fist, were financially devastated
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Reconstruction politics centered on the issue of how to readmit the seceding states back into the Union and on what terms this reunification should be done. There was a struggle between the policies of the Radical Republicans in Congress who wanted to harshly punish the South and the views of President Lincoln who favored a more lenient process of Southern reintegration. The President, wary to alienate Southern support for his programs, was willing to overlook certain divisive issues (such as black suffrage) and focus on reconciliation. Lincoln introduced his plan, known as the “Ten Percent Plan,” as early as December 1863. The plan offered a pardon to any ex-Confederate who took an oath of allegiance to the Union and accepted the Emancipation Proclamation, and it allowed any state to create a new constitution and resume full participation in the Union once ten percent of the state’s residents had sworn allegiance to the Union. Lincoln’s plan did not require states to ensure voting rights for blacks, and many therefore construed the plan as too forgiving. The radicals in Lincoln’s own Republican Party opposed the President’s plan and pushed through Congress their own, stricter Reconstruction plan, the Wade-Davis Act, in July 1864. Lincoln, however, left the bill unsigned and let it die, leaving the President and Congress effectively deadlocked over Reconstruction.

Congress did succeed in passing some more radical
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