Essay, Research Paper
Constitutional and social developments between 1860 and 1877 had a huge impact on Americanpolitics and life, thereby resulting in a massive cultural, political, and social revolution. Addedto these developments were continuing changing goals and revolutionary ideas which, at times,confused issues in people’s minds and furthered the revolutionary process. Such changesdramatically altered American lifestyles and trains of thought. As Senator Morrill said, “everysubstantial change in the fundamental constitution of a country is a revolution.” Politics andstates’ rights, black suffrage, and civil rights issues all combined during this period of physicaland psychological turmoil to create unrest and, eventually, a revolution, Civil War and SouthernReconstruction. Politics and states’ rights were major issues which created hatred during the period of 1860 to1877. Issues of concentrated power, interpretations of the constitution, state nullification, andcurrency issues all affected the American society. Americans, at that time, argued overConstitution interpretation (loose or strict construction) and believed that the opposing viewresulted in a concentration of power in the federal government. Many Southerners believed indelegated powers and sought to create a set of strong powerful governments. Many NorthernUnionists desired to strengthen and empower the federal government, perhaps more so than itspresent condition. Certain laws and taxes were created by the national government in andaround 1860 which many Southern states objected to and wished to nullify. Unionistsexplained that the Constitution did not allow this. the first Southern state to secede (andeventually bring about the Civil War) namely South Carolina, believed certain taxes were beingimposed and limited their delegated power. Unionists believed in preserving the Union andcreating a strong, nationalistic, democratic society. They claimed that strong principles of states’rights which may have weakened national authority and laws, had ruined the Union and couldplace here in financial and political ruin in the future. Currency issues developed under attackson states’ rights. South Carolina and her sisters believed in the power of the state and people tocontrol and produce money privately of their own national choice (gold, silver, paper). Unionizes believed in a dependence on a U. S. national currency and exchange, so that loyaltyand trust would more strongly develop between the states and the federal government. All ofthese political issues primarily focused on states’ rights helped bring about a physical andpsychological revolution (namely the Civil War and Southern Reconstruction). Black suffrage during the times of the Civil War and Southern Reconstruction was a major issuewhich split the American public and at times confused it due to the American Federalgovernment’s changing policies and goals. A definite statement can be made regarding theissue: primarily all free white Americans in the South, from 1860 to 1877, wanted blacks not tohave the vote. The federal government, however, is another matter. In the beginning of theCivil War, even people in leadership positions confessed to the Union and their disinterest inblack suffrage. Gideon Welles stated that the federal government does not want to attempt and
has no right forcing a state to allow blacks to vote. Lincoln, during the Lincoln-Douglasdebates, claimed not to be an abolitionist and was uninterested in freeing the slaves. In theEmancipation Proclamation, Lincoln claimed that at that point slaves should be free, but thisdocument was primarily to pacify the border states and keep European powers, namely Franceand England, out of the war. Blacks began to demand the vote, however, through abolitionistand Union support. In 1865, American citizens of African descent begged for the vote tocombat the enemy just as they are called to do in the field. blacks wanted to vote, whether theywere in the Union or the confederacy. Eventually under Southern Reconstruction, blacks weregiven the right to vote under a Constitutional Amendment, and the union, which early claimedthat the federal government had no right to force states to allow blacks the vote, forced states toallow blacks to vote through undesirable Northern watchdogs and re-established,northern/Unionist-controlled local governments. the vote may have been in place, however,white Southerners still controlled the vote through persuasive methods. through discriminatingand oppressive black codes and Jim Crow Laws, blacks were still oppressed in the South. violence, such as that produced by the KKK made freedom worse than slavery for manynewly-freed blacks. Civil; Rights for blacks was another factor which helped bring about the revolutionary Civil Warand Southern Reconstruction period. Changing federal goals in this area also helped confusethe American public. Throughout American history prior to this time, blacks were not viewedas equal to whites (an example is the 3/5 Compromise). Slavery was definitely thought of assomething to be destroyed at the beginning of this time period, but civil rights was anothermatter. Later during Southern Reconstruction, civil rights became a goal of the unionists,through such laws and the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Civilization was to be equal, according toUnionist beliefs. Southern people did not want civil rights at any time during this time period. Black voters were intimidated by whites. literacy tests were created, which were unequal, toprevent blacks from being registered. Black Codes and Jim Crow laws developed in the Southto further oppress blacks. violence made freedom awful and created a beautiful view on slavery. Groups such as the KKK terrorized many blacks. Not all Americans took the civil rightsissues seriously and journalism spread the idea of such a strong federal government as a”novelty.” The federal government created strong legislation for blacks to be educated andhelped, such as the Freedmen’s Bureau, but it was not as effective due to powers in the Southwho were against it. Blacks had to cry out for such agencies to help full force and provide suchnecessities as land. But often times these cries were overshadowed by violence. Constitutional and social developments largely affected the American public and led to a massiverevolution between 1860 and 1877. The Civil War and the Southern Reconstruction were theirresults. The revolutions from such factors did not end until the Compromise of 1877 and theelection of President Hayes. Issues and changing goals concerning politics and states’ rights,black suffrage, and civil rights all helped contribute to the chaos. America has never seen such astrong turmoil as dangerous as this one since 1860 to 1877.