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Reconstruction (1865-1877)


  • Emancipation Proclamation (Jan. 1, 1863)

  • Wade-Davis Bill (Jun. 1864)

  • Lincoln reelected (Nov. 8, 1864)

  • Sherman's March to the Sea (Nov.-Dec. 1864)

  • Freedman's Bureau established (Mar. 3, 1865)

  • Robert E. Lee surrenders at Appomatox Court House (Apr. 8, 1865)

  • Lincoln is assassinated (Apr. 15, 1865)

  • 13th Amendment (slavery) ratified (Dec. 6, 1865)

  • Black Codes

  • Civil Rights Act of 1866 (Apr. 9, 1866) - followed by race riots

  • KKK established

  • Reconstruction Acts (1867)

  • Johnson impeachment trial (Mar.-May 1868)

  • 14th Amendment (Citizenship) ratified (Jul. 21, 1868)

  • U.S. Grant elected (Nov. 3, 1868)

  • First black senator (Hiram Revels) elected (Feb. 23, 1870)

  • 15th Amendment (Voting) ratified (Mar. 30, 1870)

  • Freedman's Bureau abolished (1872)

  • Civil Rights Act of 1875 (Mar. 1, 1875)

  • Disputed election of Rutherford B. Hayes (Nov. 1876)

  • Reconstruction ends (1877)


See post on Civil War




  • Political process by which the 11 rebel states restored a normal relationship with the federal govt.


  • Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction.

  • Individuals:

  • ​Full presidential pardon for most Confederates who:

  • Took oath of allegiance to U.S. Constitution

  • Accept emancipation of slaves

  • States:

  • As soon as 10% of eligible voters in former Confederate state took oath of allegiance to Union

  • ​The people of that state could:

  • ​ Write a new state constitution

  • Elect reps. to Congress (except high Confederate officials)

  • Organize a state government

  • Occupied Tenn. Ark. and Louisiana immediately agreed.

  • But Congressional Republicans objected

  • Said more was needed including:

  • "permanent freedom" of slaves

  • Provide black education

  • (not yet requirement of black voting rights)



  • Radical Republicans

  • Led by Sen. Charles Sumner, Thaddeus Stevens, Benjamin Wade

  • Demanded immediate civil and political equality for blacks.

  • Vote, land, education

  • Moderate Republicans

  • ​Prepared to accept less

  • Wanted to protect former slaves from exploitation and guarantees of basic rights

  • But not prepared for full political equality for freed slaves



  • Congressional Republicans

  • Written by Benjamin Wade and Henry Winter Davis

  • Opposed Lincoln's Ten Percent Plan

  • Feared South would fall under control of disloyal secessionists

  • Wanted:

  • To punish the Southerners who had caused the war.

  • And pass additional legislation to protect free blacks.

  • Proposal

  • Individuals:

  • ​Disenfranchised (took vote away) all former Confederate leaders

  • Only non-Confederates could vote for the state constitution.

  • States:

  • ​Required more than 50% of white men to take oath of allegiance to the Union in each state before a new constitution could be drafted

  • New constitution had to renounce slavery and secession.

  • Appoint provisional military governors in the former Confederate states

  • Congress passed the Wade-Davis Bill in July 1864

  • But Lincoln thought it too radical, refused to sign it, "pocket vetoed" the bill.

  • That is, withheld his signature until Congress adjourned for the year

  • Wade-Davis Bill died.



  • 60,000 soldiers, 285-mile from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia

  • Led by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman

  • To terrify Georgians into abandoning Confederate cause.

  • Soldiers destroyed transportation, stole food, burned houses when people tried to fight back.

  • Sherman's Special Field Order No. 15 (Jan. 16, 1865)

  • Confiscated 400,000 acres of land to be given to slaves in 40 acre plots (along with a mule)

  • Supposed to be temporary

  • Revoked by Johnson



  • Lincoln v. McClellan

  • Republicans were renamed National Union Party

  • ​To appeal to War Democrats and border states

  • Civil War General McClellan campaigned for quick end of war and restoration of slavery

  • Because of Union victories, Lincoln was reelected by a landslide

  • With Andrew Johnson as VP

  • War Democrat from Tennessee (occupied Confederate state)

  • Had been against rich planters.

  • Was a white supremacist, racist



  • Extended Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation to all slaves

  • By formally abolishing slavery

  • Used language from Northwest Ordinance of 1787

  • Section 1: 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 or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

  • Section 2: Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation

  • Passed

  • By Senate Apr. 1864

  • By House Jan 1865

  • Ratified by states Dec. 1865

  • ​When Georgia became the 27th state (out of 36 states) to ratify it.

  • All northern states, most of border states and "reconstructed" Southern states.

  • Black Codes

  • ​Kept freed blacks in servile positions and limited their freedoms



  • Initiated by Lincoln and Republican government

  • Intended to last one year after end of Civil War

  • To help freedmen (freed slaves) with:

  • Immediate problems of survival (food, housing)

  • Social institutions (schools etc.)

  • Helping former slaves find family members

  • Helped with legal issues (employment contracts for example)

  • Urged freed Blacks to seek employment

  • Difficult task since only about 1000 people working in the Bureau



  • By actor John Wilkes Booth

  • While attending play, "My American Cousin," at Ford's Theater in Washington D.C.

  • Succeeded by his vice president, Andrew Johnson



ANDREW JOHNSON (r. 1865-1869)

  • Picked as Lincoln's VP because he was from Tennessee.

  • ​To get votes from pro-Union Democrats

  • Small farmer who favored homesteads, public education and social equality

  • Against big plantation owners/Southern aristocrats

  • But not sympathetic to Blacks



  • At first, Johnson pleased radical republicans

  • Because he publicly attacked Southern aristocrats

  • Johnson's Amnesty proclamation (May 29, 1865)

  • Individuals:

  • Southern citizens had to swear loyalty oath before receiving amnesty for rebellion.

  • Barred many elites (large plantation owners, Confederate officials) from taking the oath

  • Prohibiting them from participating in new governments

  • Disenfranchised

  • All former military and civil officers of Confederacy

  • And Confederates with more than $20,000 in taxable property

  • ​But president could grant individual pardons (most pardoned by end 1865)

  • Confiscated territory from those who owned more than $20,000 worth of land.

  • To shift control from old planter aristocracy to small farmers.

  • States:

  • Called for creation of provisional military governments

  • To run the states until they were readmitted

  • Provisional governments would hold state constitutional conventions

  • States would have to write new constitutions

  • Eliminating slavery and renouncing secession.

  • No requirement to give Blacks the vote.



  • Johnson was easily flattered when wealthy came to visit him and ask for pardons

  • Granted amnesty to many former Confederates

  • By Dec. 1865 all 11 ex-Confederate states rejoined Union

  • State Constitutions

  • Repudiated secession and ratified 13th Amendment

  • But only slight revisions of old constitutions

  • Southern states didn't extend voting rights to freed blacks

  • Most passed new black codes

  • Former Confederate officials were again in power

  • U.S. Congress

  • ​By time Congress returned Dec. 1865

  • Senators included VP of Confederacy (Alexander Stephens) and other high Confederate officials



  • To keep blacks in bondage, to get around 13th amendment

  • Still better for blacks: could sue and testify, own some land

  • But

  • Freedmen were not allowed to carry arms

  • Not allowed in occupations except farming and servant

  • Limited freedmen's rights to assemble and travel

  • Instituted curfews

  • Required Blacks to carry special passes

  • Many codes required Blacks to sign lengthy labor contracts

  • Some codes simply slave codes with "freedman" replacing the word "slaves"



  • Originally established in March 1865 to care for refugees (branch of War Dept)

  • Congress wanted to expand it to protect black population

  • ​Congress renewed charter in 1866

  • But Johnson vetoed it

  • Said unconstitutional extension of military authority in peacetime.

  • Bureau was already weak

  • ​Because of rise of Ku Klux Klan



  • Founded as a social club in 1866

  • By a handful of former Confederate soldiers in Tennessee

  • Became a vigilante group that used violence and intimidation to drive African Americans out of politics

  • Movement declined in late 1870s

  • But resurfaced in the 1920s as a political organization that opposed all groups - religious, immigrant, racial - that challenged White Protestant hegemony.



  • In order to protect freedmen from Southern states' Black Codes

  • Granted citizenship and the same rights enjoyed by white citizens

  • To all male persons in the United States

  • "without distinction of race or color, or previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude"

  • Equal protection and rights of contract, full access to courts

  • Johnson vetoed Act

  • Congress overrode veto

  • And looked for a more permanent solution (14th Amendment)



  • Memphis Race Riot (Tennessee)

  • ​Police and white civilians killed more than 40 freed Blacks and destroy homes, schools and churches in Memphis

  • New Orleans Race Riot

  • ​More than 40 African-American and white Republicans killed


FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT (Passed July 9, 1868)

  • Part of Congressional Reconstruction

  • Johnson made "Swing around the Circle" public speaking tour

  • To campaign against the amendment.

  • But passed anyway.



  • If you are born in the U.S. you are a citizen of the U.S. and a citizen of the state you live in

  • Negated Dred Scott decision (saying Africans weren't citizens).

  • Prohibited states from depriving any citizen of life, liberty or property without due process of law

  • Prevented states from denying citizens equal protection of the law

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.


  • Ended 3/5th Clause.

  • Punishes states that deny the vote to any male citizen over 21 (except rebels and criminals) by reducing their representation in the House of Representatives.

  • Because there wasn't a harsher penalty, some states still denied voting rights to black citizens.

  • In 1870, the ​15th Amendment was passed saying states could not legally prevent black men from voting (see below) but other methods were used (like literacy laws and poll taxes)

  • Those who participated in rebellion or committed crimes cannot vote.

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.


  • Anyone who engaged in insurrection or rebellion could hold any office in the United States unless Congress permits it with 2/3 vote in each House.

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.


  • All debts accrued to put down a rebellion shall be repaid

  • But debts accrued to incite a rebellion against the U.S. or for the loss of slaves will be void.

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.


The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.


MILITARY RECONSTRUCTION ACT/Reconstruction Act of 1867 (Mar. 1, 1867)​

  • Because southern states not willing to accept 14th amendment.

  • First Act

  • Divided confederacy (not Tenn which passed 14th) into five military districts.

  • Each controlled by major general with dictatorial powers to protect civil rights of all people

  • To rid of military rule

  • Former states had to adopt new state constitutions guaranteeing blacks the right to vote

  • And disenfranchising road classes of ex-Confederates

  • If new constitutions satisfactory to Congress and if new govt. ratified 14th amendment

  • Their representatives would be admitted to congress

  • And military rule ended

  • Johnson's veto was easily overridden.

  • Second Act

  • Requiring military authorities to register voters and supervise the election of delegates to constitutional conventions

  • Third Act

  • Further clarified procedures.

  • Still white southerners resisted.

  • By staying away from polls, whites prevented ratification in state after state.

  • Rules changed again Mar. 1868

  • Constitutions to be ratified by a majority of the voters

  • Arkansas fulfill requirements, was readmitted

  • Then enough states to make 14th part of Constitution. (Georgia not until 1870)

  • Congress also passed a number of laws to limit power of the president



  • To protect prominent Republicans within the Johnson administration by forbidding their dismissal without congressional authorization.

  • Although the act applied to all office holders approved by Congress,

  • Radicals specifically wanted to keep Sec. of War Edwin M. Stanton in office

  • To check Johnson's control over the military

  • In defiance, Johnson ignored the act

  • Fired Stanton in summer of 1867 during a congressional recess

  • And tried to replace him with Union general Ulysses S. Grant.

  • Congress ordered Johnson to reinstate Stanton in 1868

  • Johnson refused, Grant resigned and Congress put Stanton back in office.



  • Johnson was finally impeached by House Republicans by vote of 126 to 47 for violating Tenure of office Act (see above) and slandering Congress.

  • But he was acquitted by one vote in Senate.

  • Senators who voted against impeachment believed the Tenure of Office Act was unconstitutional

  • The Tenure of Office Act was finally deemed unconstitutional in 1926 (Myers v. United States)

  • The vote made him politically impotent - no hope of reelection.



Election 1868

  • Ulysses S. Grant, the Union military hero, won the election of 1868 with the help fo 450,000 black Republican vote in the South

  • But he won by only a small margin - 300,000 votes.

  • Convinced Republicans that they needed to guarantee black suffrage

15th AMENDMENT (1870)

  • Proposed because states were still legally denying voting rights to black citizens

  • Black people had been granted citizenship in the 14th Amendment.

  • Most freedmen would vote Republican.

  • States got around the 15th Amendment by applying:

  • Poll taxes - limiting voting rights to men who could afford to pay to vote.

  • ​Prohibited by 24th Amendment in 1964.

  • Literacy laws - requiring voters to pass tests in order to vote

  • ​Prohibited by Voting Rights Act 1965.

  • Grandfather clauses - restricting votes to men whose grandfathers had voted

  • Nativists supported these restrictions because they also prevented immigrant citizens from participating in elections.​

  • Passed

  • House of Representatives Feb.25, 1869

  • Senate Feb. 26, 1869

  • Ratified Feb. 3, 1870


The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.


The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation


FORCE ACTS (1870 and 1871): (Called KKK Act in 1871)

  • Three laws passed by the Republican-dominated Congress in 1870-1871 to protect black voters in the South.

  • Laws placed state elections under federal jurisdiction and imposed fines and imprisonment on those guilty of interfering with any citizen exercising his right to vote.



Whiskey Ring (exposed 1875)

  • Scandal involved diversion of tax revenues

  • Conspiracy among government agents, politicians, whiskey distillers and distributors.

  • Before they were caught

  • A group of mostly Republican politicians were able to siphon off millions of dollars in federal taxes on liquor.

  • Scheme involved an extensive network of bribes

  • Involving distillers, storekeepers, IRS agents and others

  • Implicated Grant's private secretary (Orville E. Babcock)

  • And cost the government millions in tax revenue.

Credit Mobilier scandal 1872

  • Credit Mobilier was a fraudulent private construction company

  • That fleeced US government

  • By padding federal contracts and skimming off the profits of the Union Pacific RR

  • Scandal involved several leading Republicans

  • Inc. Schuyler Colfax, Grant's VP


PANIC OF 1873 (sometimes called the "Depression of 1873")

  • Part of a worldwide depression.

  • ​Burst postwar economic boom, caused millions of Americans to lose jobs.

  • In U.S. it was triggered by bankruptcy of the Northern Pacific Railroad

  • Was backed by financier Jay Cooke (Cooke had supervised Union finances during Civil War)

  • Cooke downfall was a shock - caused people to believe Republicans were manipulating economy

  • Especially when Grant didn't increase money supply to provide relief from debt and unemployment.

  • Poor wanted cheap paper and silver money for relief

  • Republicans feared cheap money would worsen inflation.

  • Instead Republicans passed Resumption Act of 1875 - ti remove all paper money from the economy

  • Overall cause --> bad loans and over speculation in railroads and factories

  • Consequences

  • Farmers suffered as crop prices fell

  • Industrial workers were laid off or had a reduction in wages.

  • Half of the nation's railroad companies filed for bankruptcy = rail construction stopped.

  • "Tramps" (homeless men looking for jobs) camped and begged for work and food.

  • Worsened situation in South

  • Ex-confederacy already suffering from loss of slavery.

  • Federal government no longer had money to pay for Freedmen's Bureau programs.



  • Aimed to eliminate social discrimination and facilitate true equality for black Americans

  • Stipulated that:

  • Racial discrimination would be outlawed in all public places, such as theaters, hotels and restaurants

  • Blacks would have same legal rights as whites

  • Blacks could sue violators in federal courts

  • Highly ineffective because Democrats in HOR made it virtually unenforceable.

  • The law required individual blacks to file their own claims to defend their rights; the federal government wouldn't do it for them.

  • Because lawsuits required money, time and considerable effort, House Democrats knew that the law would have very little practical impact.



  • Only states, not the federal government,

  • Could prosecute individuals in violation of the 1871 KKK Act.

  • Civil Rights Cases of 1883

  • Determined 14th Amendment applied only to discrimination by the government (not by individuals)



Compromise of 1877/Election of 1876

  • Brokered arrangement whereby Republican and Democratic leaders agreed to settle the disputed 1876 presidential election. Democrats allowed returns that ensured the election of Republican Rutherford B. Hays; and Republicans agreed to withdraw federal troops from the South, ensuring an end to Reconstruction

Reasons Reconstruction failed

  • War had battered reform impulse

  • New materialism of industrial America created jaded cynicism about corruption

  • African-American voters lacked education and experience

  • Racism still permeated American life

  • Most white northerners had little interest in black rights -- except to serve the Union and the Republican Party.




  • Critical term for Northerners who went to South after Civil War to exploit the new political power of freed blacks and the disenfranchisement of former Confederates

  • Nicknamed for large carpet bags many of them brought with them

  • Carpetbaggers came for variety of reasons: to promote education, to modernize the South and to seek their fortunes


  • White southern Republicans -- mainly small landowning farmers and well-off merchants and planters -- who cooperated with the congressionally imposed Reconstruction governments set up in the South following the Civil War

  • Both carpetbaggers and scalawags served in legislatures in every reconstructed state.

"Negro rule"

  • Myth, blacks only 2 of 10 constitutional writing conventions, in state legislatures only in lower house of South Carolina did blacks have majority, among officeholders numbers fewer than proportion in population, 16 blacks won in seats in Congress before Reconstruction over, none ever elected governor, 18 in high state office (such as lieutenant governor, treasurer, superintendent.

  • In all some 400 blacks served in political office during Reconstruction era.

  • Black political power

  • Grassroots political organizations sprouted up everywhere.

  • Black voters dominated electorate in South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, giving the Republican Party control over the Reconstruction process in those states.

"bayonet rule"

  • Liberal republicans

  • Mostly well-educated, socially prominent types - editors, college presidents, economist, along with sprinkling of businessmen and politicians

"waving the bloody shirt"

  • post-Civil War strategy of appealing to voters by recalling the passions and hardships of the recent war. Most often employed by the Radical Republicans in efforts to focus public attention on Reconstruction issues still facing the country.

  • Used in presidential elections of 1868, 1872 and 1876

  • Particularly effective in the North in attracting veterans' votes.


  • Weak Republican foothold in the South had only gotten weaker as Northerners lost interest in Reconstruction. By mid 1870s, the depression and the Klan had driven off most white Unionists, carpetbaggers and scalawags, which left African Americans to fend for themselves. Without any support from Southern whites or Congress, Democrats easily seized power once again and "redeemed" the Southern state legislatures one by one

  • Some Democrats even employed violence to secure power by killing Republicans or terrorizing blacks away from the polls.

  • by 1877, Democrats once again controlled every Southern state


  • Some slaves worked on their own small plots of land

  • Most worked on a plantation and got some land in exchange for paying taxes in crops or money

  • Sharecroppers were tenants who were allowed to use the land in exchange for giving a "share" of the "crops" produced on their portion of land.

  • From 1880-1940, there are more white sharecroppers than black sharecroppers

Crop-lien system

  • Mostly small white farmers

  • Crops are used as collateral for loans from merchants for supplies

  • Leaves many farmers in continuous state of debt - especially when cotton prices plummet

Southern cities

  • Grow after Civil War

  • Become increasingly industrialized




  • When did Reconstruction start? What needed to be "reconstructed"?

  • Why did many Republicans oppose Lincoln's Reconstruction plans? How did they try to revise or stop those plans from implementation?

  • How did Johnson's Reconstruction Plan differ from Lincoln's Plan?

  • ​No 10% clause

  • More confederates (including those who owned over $20,000 property) excluded from general pardon

  • Give 2-3 example of how the southern state constitutions adopted under Johnson's Plan granted or denied blacks legal and civil rights

  • List 2-3 ways that newly freed blacks responded to freedom.

  • List 2-3 things that Freedmen's Bureau did. What was one thing many Southern blacks expected the Bureau- and the federal government in general - to do that it didn't do?

  • During the years 1865-1866, identify 2-3 ways Radical Republican and their Republican allies actively opposed President Johnson's agenda.


  • Why was Andrew Johnson impeached? Was he removed from office?

  • Johnson out of touch with public opinion, had low opinion of blacks (but common)

  • Believed that he was fighting to preserve constitutional govt.

  • He was honest and devoted to duty and his record withstood examination.

  • Chief issue: Tenure of Office Act 1867

  • Which prohibited the president from removing officials who had been appointed with the consent of the Senate without first obtaining Senate approval

  • Feb. 1868 Johnson "violated" this act by dismissing Sec. of War Edwin M. Stanton who had been openly in sympathy with Radicals

  • House impeached him before Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase


  • How accurate is the characterization of Grant's administration as "corrupt"?

  • Grant was honest but his honesty was of the naive type that made him the dupe of unscrupulous friends and schemers.

  • His most serious weakness s president was his failure to deal effectively with economic and social problems

  • Scandals:

  • Whiskey Ring affair (implicated Grant's private secretar

  • Credit Mobilier (see above)

  • Identify 2-3 ways President Grant either hindered or assisted Reconstruction policies in the South, especially those that aided southern blacks.


  • Identify 3-4 reasons Reconstruction ended (besides the Compromise of 1877)

  • List at least 3 major goals of Reconstruction and briefly asses to what extent (that is, "partially," "minimally," etc.) these goals were met.

  • Overall, do you think Reconstruction was a success or a failure? Why or why not?

Gilded Age

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