To What Degree Was Reconstruction After The
Civil War Successful? Essay, Research Paper
Reconstruction was successful politically in its attempts to solve the problems of how to deal with the newly freed slaves and how to bring the seceded states back into the Union after the Civil War; however, many of these methods were unsuccessful or had no effect socially or economically. Some solutions determined by Reconstruction included: the passage of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments; the Freedmen?s Bureau; the Reconstruction Act of 1837, the Civil Rights Act, and the Enforcement Act of 1870.
In 1865, Congress ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, which stated that ?Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.? Simply put, the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery. The passage of this amendment was successful politically; however, many states did not readily enforce this law. Many even passed discriminatory laws known as black codes. These laws were seen by Republicans as the driving vehicle for the reconstitution of the Democratic Party in the South. The black codes placed numerous restrictions on African-Americans including the prohibition of blacks to carry weapons, serve on juries, testify against whites, marry whites, start their own businesses, and travel without permits.
The Thirteenth Amendment allowed for the freedom of African-Americans, but they were far from equal. However, with the help of the Freedmen?s Bureau, former slaves began to slowly pull themselves back up. The Freedmen?s Bureau was created by Congress just before the war to aid refugees, freedmen, and Southerners who had been uprooted by the Civil War by furnishing supplies and medical services, establishing schools, distributing clothing, and much more. Although the Freedmen?s Bureau lasted only a short time, it did succeed in establishing and assisting numerous educational institutions including Howard University and Hampton Institute. The Bureau also succeeded in providing work for families who needed it the most. Congress voted in February of 1866 for the continuation of the Bureau. This law was very successful in employing and assisting many of the freed slaves after the war. It most definitely was a successful solution to one of the main problems after the war?how to deal with the newly freed slaves.
Because of the acutely enforced Thirteenth Amendment, Congress later passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Fourteenth Amendment. The Civil Rights Act extended citizenship to ?all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power?of every race and color, without regard to any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude.? It also forbade states from passing discriminatory laws like the black codes. The Fourteenth Amendment, passed to reinforce and reiterate the Thirteenth Amendment, made ?all persons born or naturalized in the United States? citizens of the country. Everyone, regardless of color, was entitled to equal protection of the law and the states were enjoined from violating the rights of citizens to life, liberty, property, and equal protection of laws.
To protect the civil rights of African-Americans, Congress passed the Reconstruction Act of 1867. This act allowed former Confederate states to reenter the Union if they agreed to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment and grant African-American men the right to vote in their new state constitutions. The act also divided the ten former Confederate states into five military districts, each headed by a Union general to ensure the laws were carried through. This act was very successful not only because it allowed former Confederate states to peacefully reenter the Union, but because it protected the civil rights of African-Americans and allowed them to execute their votes. As a result of this act, all remaining Confederate states agreed to set forth terms and were reentered into the Union by 1870.
After the inauguration of Ulysses Grant, Republicans introduced the Fifteenth Amendment in fear that pro-Confederate Southern whites would try to place limits on black suffrage. This amendment stated that no one could be kept from voting because of ?race, color, or previous condition of servitude.? However, the Fifteenth Amendment did not succeed in making it possible for qualified African-Americans to exercise their right to vote. Therefore, the Enforcement Acts of 1870 and 1871 were enacted to protect the voting rights of African-Americans and give the federal government power to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment.
In the face of violence from groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments provided no protection for the African-American citizen. These amendments were unquestionably positive, but they were not necessarily enacted. The South still found ways to keep blacks from exercising their civil rights, which included the above mentioned black codes and racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
Overall, reconstruction succeeded politically in its attempts to solve the problems of how to deal with the newly freed slaves and how to bring the seceded states back into the Union. Many of these methods were unsuccessful or had no effect at all socially or economically because of the South?s persistence to remain Democratic mentally and politically.