The Failure of Reconstruction after the Civil War

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AP US History 2

The Failure of Reconstruction

The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments liberated, naturalized, and franchised slaves. Although adequate in theory, they did not immediately establish social and economic equality of opportunity between freedmen and whites. On the contrary, former slaves were deliberately suppressed, both economically and socially, by supremacist whites that felt black men could never be equal to their former masters. In this aspect, Reconstruction was a failure due to: the leniency of the 10 Percent Plan and later federal readmission policies, the government's inability to wash away anti-"bluebelly" sentiment, and Republicans' priority to promote their fortune.

The 10 Percent Plan was a reintegration policy that did not, by any means, force any Southerners or their respective state governments to modify their views on the rights of freedmen. Under Lincoln's plan, a state could be readmitted into the Union when 10 percent of its voters in the presidential election of 1860 had taken an oath of allegiance to the United States and pledged to abide by emancipation (483).

In 1865, Johnson added that states were to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment to gain recognition as a purified regime (484). The intention of this plan was to reunite the Union as soon as possible and establish racial equality in the South gradually. This plan was made slightly more stringent by Congress after "King Veto" Jackson was made powerless by a Republican Washington, D.C. (495). The Military Reconstruction Act was passed on March 2, 1867, separating the South into five military districts that were policed by Union soldiers. Under this new policy, Southern states were forced to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment (that did not include full suffrage for freedmen) to be readmitted. Finally, blacks were enfranchised by the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870 (489). These temporarily enforced laws were, however,