Throughout American history, many have worked to make constitutional and social equality for all Americans, slave and free, black and white. Between 1860 and 1877, America had gone through civil war and reconstruction, from destructive to constructive. Hence, there had been many factors that attributed to constitutional and social developments in America history, but the main reasons for the change could attribute to the economic rivalry between the industrial North and the agricultural South and the pivotal gap concerning slavery and the political reconstruction.
The United States experienced a great period of constitutional developments from 1860 to 1877 due to the civil war, Emancipation Proclamation, three civil rights bills, and the reconstruction. However, slavery became the dominant issue in splitting the North and the South. The presidential election began in 1860. It was apparent that most Northerners refused to accept leadership by a Southerner; and it was also clear that most Southerners would not accept a leadership from the antislavery Republicans in the North. (History Textbook P. 69) Southerners even threatened to secede if a Northerner was elected. On Election Day, Lincoln received 39 percent of the popular vote and 180 electoral votes and won the election. (History Textbook P. 370)
As a result, the country quickly moved toward disunion. South Carolina seceded from the Union shortly after Lincoln’s election. On December 24, 1860, the South Carolina Declaration of Causes of Secession stated: “By the United States Constitution, certain duties were imposed upon the several states, and the exercise of certain f their powers were restrained, which necessarily imperiled their continued existence as sovereign states. ”, which stated in Document A. Over the following weeks six additional southern states left the Union —Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. On February 4, 1861, these southern states created a new nation—the Confederate States of America. Despite Lincoln told the South in his inaugural address that he hoped war was not inevitable, In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war.
The government will not assail you. (Lincoln First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861, American Treasures of the Library of Congress) his words were ignored. On the contrary, in Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address, he said,”We have vainly endeavored to secure tranquility and obtain respect for the rights to which we were entitled….. ”(History Textbook P. 381) However, the southerners felt their rights of holding slaves were being threatened. Then, in April 1861, the first shots fired on Fort Sumter signaled the start of the nation’s Civil War.
During the Civil War, the need for a stronger central government was urgent. (History Textbook P. 391) As Senator Sherman stated that to nationalize the country was essential to the United States. “If we are dependent on the United States for a currency and a medium of exchange, we shall have a broader and more generous nationality. ” (Document B, L2) Because in 1862, Congress passed an act that created a national currency which was declared by Congress to be acceptable for legal payment of all public and private debts , Americans no longer relied on state banks. History Textbook, P393) However, limited state power and rights as in banking system was essential way to prevent government from being overthrown. “It has been that principle of states rights, that bad sentiment that has elevated state authority above national authority, that has been the main instrument by which our government is sought to be overthrown. (Document B, L4-6)
While the Union’s battlefield casualties mounted, Lincoln was pressured to make the abolition of slavery a goal of the war. (History Textbook, P395) As Gideon Welles wrote on his diary,” the war can carcely be other than one of emancipation to the slave, or subjugation, or submission to their Rebel owner. ” (Gideon Welles diary vii) On January 1 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and declared that “ all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and all parts of States, are and henceforward shall be free. ” (History Textbook, P 396) The proclamation also authorized the recruitment of African Americans as Union soldiers. As a result, more and more African Americans join the fight.. In December 1863, Lincoln had began postwar planning. He proposed a Ten-Percent plan for
Reconstruction. Under the plan, each southern state would be readmitted to the Union after 10 percent of its voting population had pledged future loyalty to the United States, and all Confederates except high-ranking government and military officials would be pardoned. ( History Textbook, P426) Along with the Ten-Percent plan, Lincoln also joined Congress in February 1865 to pass the Thirteenth Amendment to the constitution to end slavery in the United States. Unfortunately, Lincoln was assassinated in 1865; President Johnson adopted the Ten Percent plan but was more lenient to the South.
Soon southern Democrats regained power and created block codes, which backed by President Johnson, to restrict freedmen’s rights. As Document D illustrates,” we shall get rid of slavery by constitutional means. But conferring on the black civil rights is another matter. ” stated in Welles diary entry. As Wells, many Radical Republicans aware the freed slaves would subject to discrimination. Congress decided to bypass Johnson and build civil rights into the Constitution. (History Textbook, P431) In June 1866, Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment granted blacks citizenship; then n February 1869, the Fifteenth Amendment gave black men the right to vote. Ultimately, the push to secure rights for African Americans were the most significant part of Reconstruction. For the first time in the US history, African Americans were given the right to vote. African American voice for equal rights was finally being heard. “If we are called on to do military duty against the rebel armies in the field, why should we be denied the privilege of voting against rebel citizens at the ballot-box. ” (Document C, 1-2) This was a furious voice by an angry African American.
Nevertheless, after the amendments, Document G shows African Americans voting with satisfaction. Ultimately, the push to secure rights for African Americans was the most significant part of Reconstruction, and the abolish of the slavery system even more important to American civilization. The emancipation was only a start of physical freedom. Nevertheless, true freedom would come only with economic independence, the ability to get ahead through hard work. As on Document E, African American started writing to the president,” We want Homesteads; we were promised Homesteads by the government.
If it does not carry out the promises its agents made to us, we are left in a more unpleasant condition than our former. We are at mercy of those who are combined to prevent us from getting land enough to la our Fathers bones upon…” Freed people urged the federal government to redistribute southern land. They argued that they were entitled to the land that slaves had cleared and farmed for generations. It says,” For many years not be allowed the Privilege of purchasing land, but be subject to the will of these large lands owners. ” As a result, in 1865 Union General William Tecumch Sherman had set up a land-distribution xperiment in South Carolina. While the society has gradually become more democratic, there were some ex-Confederate officials and plantation owners formed to defend the social and political superiority, as standing on the left with the “white league” stitched on his coat in Document I; on the right was the Klamsman both men holding a skull upon two African Americans like monstrous.
Their goal was to keep African Americans in the role of submissive laborers. However, Congress took an action to pass a series of anti-Klan laws banned the use of terror, force, r bribery to prevent people from voting because of their race. (History Textbook, P443) The Enforcement Act of 1870 had promised a more secure society and was supposed by many people included Nation. It stated” These are momentous changes to introduce into the administration system of any free country….. ” (Document H) America has made a great stride between 1861 and 1877 in constitutional and social developments. The Union is restored and is no longer half slave and half free. This is a significant period in U. S. history because it proved that democracy worked.