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Abraham Lyncoln and His Views on Slavery

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    When Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th President of the United States of America, his Republican views of anti-slavery quickly created a divide between the Northern and Southern states as while the North opposed slavery, the South heavily relied on its practice for daily life and financial stability. Following the end of the Civil War, the Reconstruction period was quickly ushered in as the succession of rebellious Southern states was defeated and began to integrate into the Union once more.

    Lincoln’s plan for Reconstruction began with the ten percent plan, which outlined the terms for the Southern states return as follows: a pardon to all Southern rebels except high-ranking officials, ten percent of the voting population were required to swear allegiance to the US and ratify the 13th amendment to free slaves, and states that the restored Confederate states would create new constitutions once these steps were taken . In March of 1865, Lincoln ensured more rights for slaves with the creation of the Freedmen’s Bureau, which gave federal aid to feed, reunite, educate, and employ freed slaves as well as gave some in Caroling land as well. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was introduced in 1863, slavery was still a prominent issue as the legality of both the slaves and the very institution of slavery were extremely active in the South, as a result, the 13th Amendment was ratified in December 1865 and officially and permanently abolished slavery. President Lincoln was a champion for the abolition of slavery, however, Lincoln never saw the abolishment of slavery as while at the Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865, the President was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.

    Following the sudden death of President Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, a Tennessee Democrat with strongly racist values and favor for poor whites became the President. President Johnson aimed to integrate the Southern states into the Union as quickly as possible, and in May 1865, Johnson’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction granted “amnesty and pardon” to Southern rebels and gave back their property (excluding slaves) in exchange for their support for the US Constitution. Johnson further aimed to solidify and complete Reconstruction of the union by appeasing to Southern interests and vetoed the Freedmen’s Bureau as he considered free slaves to be receiving too much with little put in on their part. As Johnson announced an end to Reconstruction, states in the South began to pass laws known as black codes, which served as legal discriminatory measures to maintain the social and economic order of the South. These laws varied from each state but ensured a concept of white supremacy as the laws deprived the rights to vote, owning land or businesses, carry weapons, testify in court, or marry whites. In response, Congress extended the Freedmen’s Bureau to counter these laws and in April 1866, passed the Civil Rights Act to ensure citizenship to African Americans, however, despite an override of President Johnson’s veto, the black codes were still enforced in the South, thus, the 14th Amendment was created to give citizenship to those born in the US or naturalized.

    In the midst of the Congressional election in 1866, Republicans managed to gain control of Congress, and subsequently, the nation as they outnumbered Democrats in the Senate and House. From the Republican-controlled Congress, emerged Radical Republicans Pennsylvania Representative Thaddeus Stevens and Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner. These men felt Lincoln was too moderate regarding reconstruction and were determined to transform the South with drastic changes as opposed to reconciliation. Sumner supported changes such as integration in schools, voting right to black men and disenfranchising many southern voters. Stevens, on the other hand, felt that with the South’s attempt at succession, they fortified their statehood status and must draft new antislavery constitutions in order to rejoin the Union.

    On March 2nd, 1867, the Military Reconstruction Act was passed and set into motion the beginning of the Reconstruction Acts to attend to disorder in the South. These acts divided the remaining ten states that had not ratified the 14th amendment into five military districts and imposed military occupation in the land. The acts also removed the voting rights of Confederate veterans and officeholders, disenfranchised one-fourth of white citizens, and gave all freedmen over 21 years old the right to vote. Following these acts, Congress attempted a power grab upon presidential power, creating the Tenure of Office Act, which required Senate approval to hire or fire officials, thus, removing President Johnson’s power to fire anyone he pleased who did not share his values; Meanwhile, the second reconstruction act came into action as Southerners refused to draft new constitutions, and the South viewed the Union’s response of authorizing the army to organize conventions as acts of military dictatorship.

    President Johnson later defied the Tenure of Office act with the firing of Radical Republican Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton without the approval of the Senate. With the violation of congressional law, Republicans quickly moved toward impeaching President Johnson from office. In May of that year, Johnson is saved from impeachment by one vote in a surprising vote when several Republicans support an acquittal as they felt an impeachment must not be on a partisan basis. Despite the acquittal, Johnson’s White House was severely weakened.

    Following Johnson’s presidency, Ulysses S. Grant, a Union war hero, runs for president as a Republican and wins the election with the help of reconstruction governments and black voters. By the end of 1870, the Southern states had all satisfied the requirements for readmission established by Congress and been officially readmitted into to the Union. However, many Radical Republican efforts in the 1860s caused unrest among white Southerners as they fought against the increasing rights of African Americans. From these angered Southerners, groups such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) emerged and began to use violence to threaten and murder African Americans, Yankees, and pro-union southerners. In 1871, this violence began to undermine reconstruction, and measures such as Congress passing the KKK act as well as Grant sending the army into South Carolina were taken to regain control. The following year, the Grant administration suffered a great injury to as news of the Crédit Mobilier Scandal broke, in which a construction firm gouged the Union Pacific and bribed officials to influence Congress in return for financial benefit.

    This scandal implicated others, such as the Vice President and Secretary of Treasury, and along with other sandals and an economic depression split the Republican party and ruined Grant’s presidency. By 1875, Reconstruction was nearly impossible as white Southerners regained voting rights, and in turn, created a strongly Democratic House which obstructed further reform. In 1876, disputed returns from Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana in the presidential election between Republican Hayes and Democrat Tilden caused confusion in who was to become the new leader of the U.S. Tilden won the popular vote, however, the commission included a Supreme Court Ruling, which chose Hayes as the next president. Hayes made a deal in the House for the removal of federal troops from the South, allowing Democratic “Redeemers” to effectively regain Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana, vanquishing a Republican government in the South. Reconstruction was finally defeated as the North came to the conclusion it could not change the South against its will, and as a result, voter amnesty ended the KKK power and a depression and generational change in the North shifted focus away from reconstruction the South with the Union.

    The vast changes that occurred in American between 1865 and 1890 were mainly political, such as reconstruction and reformation, as well as social and industrial changes. Alongside the reconstruction attempts, Republicans began to push for more equality of African Americans, particularly in the South. Southern states were quick to reject these ideas, as equality would result in financial hardship for many Southerners, as the cheap labor they heavily relied on for their plantations and crops would have limitations. Eventually, many Southern states adopted some laws for the better treatment of African Americans, however this was largely motivated out of their need to rejoin the Union.

    Following the failure of reconstruction, America saw an era known as the Gilded Age, which brought about industry, industrialization, immigration, conservatism, and corruption to the forefront of American politics, practices, and ideals. Westward Expansion also began in America as many citizens in the East began to move outward for better opportunities and fresh starts in states such as California. This was largely in part to the new and readily available technology of the railroad system, as traveling long distances became exceptionally easier with lower risks. The building of the railroads also brought in the arrival of Chinese immigrants, as well as those from other countries, who wished to provide better lives for themselves and their families. This brought in new movements of right-wing populism in California, as they began to hold onto nativist beliefs that these immigrants were taking jobs from deserving Americans.

    During the 1870s and 1880s, America began to move from Lincoln’s idealism to pro-business, antigovernment thinking following huge leaps in technology and commerce, such as the railroad system and electric light, and in response to a large number of powerful businessmen and government officials conspiring together to benefit themselves financially and politically with little to no regard for the American people. In 1878, following a period of financial hardships in the U.S., the Gold Standard restored sound money, and within consumers confidence in businesses. In the 1880s, a political stalemate began a reinforcement of conservative beliefs in Americans, and political parties began to split within themselves, such as Republican “Half-Breeds” and “Stalwarts.” “Half-Breed” Republicans blocked President Grant for a third term, and the GOP pick James Garfield wins the election only to be assassinated in 1881. Garfield’s successor Chester Arthur embodies the Gilded Age in America filled with the lavish lifestyles of the rich. In 1882, Thomas Edison reveals the electric light, allowing for the creating and expansion of a night-life in cities across the nation.

    As the years progressed, religion became a focal point once more in society and politics as Social Darwinism emerges, free enterprise is blessed by the “prosperity theology,” and this idea is rejected by the Catholics and Knight of Labor following a large Catholic migration to the U.S. The 1880s also saw the rise of the oil industry and its monopolization by John Rockefeller. In the election of 1884, Democrat Glover Cleveland is elected despite an issue of moral character and quickly begins to revert social and political progress toward equality for all in favor of white Southerners. Native Americans also begin to suffer during this time, as they are declared no longer independent nations and confined to reservations to be Christianized and assimilated. During this time, Industrialization began to grow in America and provides a platform for Benjamin Harrison and his extreme government conservatism.

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