The Reconstruction Era

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The Reconstruction Era refers to the period of 1865-1877. Although the period was a time of physical rebuilding of the South, Reconstruction also refers to the rebuilding of the federal Union and to the political, economic, and social changes that came to the South as it was restored to the nation. The main issues most Americans had to deal with after 1865 involved the role of free blacks in the restored Union and under what conditions were the North to let the South back in the Union. Attitudes toward the issues were diverse. The Northern Radical Republicans blamed the Confederate leaders for the war's consequences and wanted to make sure that free blacks had government assistance for full freedom and were protected against exploitation. Southern Conservatives, who were former Confederate activists, believed that the South would return to its prewar political and economic structure with no voting rights or economic equality for former slaves.

Lastly, the Southern Freedman were former slaves who believed that they should be guaranteed equal political and economic rights and protected by the federal government from the undergoing power of southern conservatives. However, Lincoln approached Reconstruction "With Malice Toward None." He planned to readmit the southern states into the Union with as little military rule as possible, because to him, the South never actually seceded. Lincoln's Ten-Percent Plan would allow several states back in the Union when a number of citizens equal to ten percent of those who voted in 1860 took an oath to support the Constitution and establish a new state government free of slavery. With amid questions about the rights of free people, the final decision of slavery was made when Lincoln passed the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States and its territories forever. Soon after, Lincoln was assassinated and...