History of Reconstruction Era in the USA
In the history of the United States of America, the period from 1867 to 1877 is considered as a Reconstruction Era. This is a period of the country’s history, in which the reintegration of the losers in the war of the southern Confederate states into the Union and the abolition of the slave system in the entire country occurred. In the U.S. history, the term Reconstruction indicates a historical period following the Civil War between the North and the South as well as the transformation of the South in the period of restructuring of the government and society in the former Confederacy. There was put many efforts in order to spread biracial democracy and equal rights for freedmen during the Congressional Reconstruction, but it was not enough in order to keep the results.
Reconstruction was discussed during the war, but it began after the publication of Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Reconstruction policy was implemented after the slaveholding South was dominated by the federal army. President Abraham Lincoln during the war created the Reconstruction government in several Southern states – Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana; and gave the land to former slaves in South Carolina. The process of reconstruction was under the Congress control, in which radical Republicans were the majority. Despite the position of President Johnson, there were adopted two amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment stipulates the conditions for civil rights of U.S. residents, by equalizing the rights of white and black people. The Fifteenth Amendment expressly prohibits the deprivation of their voting rights on the basis of belonging to a particular race. These amendments have largely determined the direction of further development of the social structure of the United States, even though they were fully put into effect only after a hundred years.
It is very difficult to give the assessment to the U.S. government actions in order to state whether the Congressional Reconstruction succeeded or failed. The Congress was trying to do everything in order to provide equal rights for white and black people. In 1867, Congress enacted in ten former Confederate states the control over military administration, dividing them into five military districts. 20,000 soldiers were involved in order to implement this decision. The Army has not taken any violent measures but actually carried out the martial law regime in the South, controlling local government, elections, and civil defense authorities and freed slaves from violence by secret organizations of the slave owners. Only after that, the representatives of the Southern states were finally admitted to the Congress. There were also passed few Reconstruction Acts. It could be considered as the successful action because it abolished the previous Johnson’s authority measures and allowed the blacks to vote.
Republicans were taking significant measures in order to provide a new position for black people in society. In the era of Reconstruction, Republicans took control of the local authorities in all the Southern states except Virginia. They elected to local and federal authorities many of black people. Some of them had previously lived in the North and moved to the South after Civil War. They were literate, in contrast to most of the local black people. The rest blacks were the local community and church leaders. As a rule, African Americans elected representatives of the white population in the federal government. It seems that supporters of the Reconstruction were doing everything right, but they did not go too far in order to consolidate their ideas and measures.
However, there were some measures that were not very successful. The eighteenth president of the U.S. became Ulysses S. Grant who was a supporter of Congressional reconstruction. In order to strengthen the federal government, he has created the U.S. Department of Justice and other agencies that were designed to fight against the South position towards blacks. Those agencies put many southerners on trial. Grant dispatched additional federal troops in South Carolina; when in 1871, the Ku Klux Klan waged the campaign of violence over there. Similarly, troops were used when there were suspicions of electoral fraud in New York, which caused a strong reaction from the Democrats. These scandals could be considered as a failure of President Grant in the effort to spread equal rights for blacks. It has undermined the credibility of the Grant by the electorate and his own Republican Party. It enraged the slave owners of the South and Democrats.
It was very difficult for Republicans to change the situation in the country at once. They took radical measures to set the equal rights for white and black people. It was their success. However, the main failure is that they did not keep their power in Congress and missed the opportunity to establish a democratic society. As a result, in 1877, Democrats agreed with the Republicans, to recognize the victory of their candidate in return for the withdrawal of federal troops from the South. Withdrawal of troops from the South meant that the federal government would not be military means for the policy of Reconstruction. In addition, Democrats won a majority in the Senate and now controlled the entire Congress. It was the end of the Congressional Reconstruction.