Essay: Slavery and the Civil War

The fight over slavery and the resulting Civil War was probably the closest this great nation has come to destroying itself. Years of constant disagreeing, compromises, and cynical ideas about slavery pushed the country into a terrible conflict between the Northern abolitionists and the Southern proslavery farmers and plantation owners. The nation suffered huge losses economically and went into a downward spiral. The reconstruction period started with many leaders stepping up to try and fix this crippled country, but it did not turn out as everyone hoped. Slavery was still the largest issue, and the reconstruction halted because of the disagreements the people faced. After several years of working, compromising, and passing laws, the task proved itself to be impossible, as the country remained separated. The absence of unity was present because most of the amendments, laws, and rules passed during Reconstruction were created to secure and guarantee the rights of African Americans. However, the South continued to promote racial segregation until the 1950’s.
President Lincoln was elected president at a horrible time for the country, but he still fought to do the best he could. After the Civil War, the primary emphasis of Lincoln was to rebuild the North but still keep the South happy. His plans consisted of designating the North’s reconstruction a main focal point and distributing 10% of the damages done to the Southern states to aid their reconstruction. President Lincoln thought that the states that seceded last should be given less guilt than the ones who seceded first. He granted more money to Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Virginia, and he treated them better because they were the last to secede. Along with his reconstruction plans came the Radical Republicans who were a small minority in Congress. They were very determined to give all rights to African Americans and wanted to punish the South. All of Lincoln’s plans were good ideas and could have been successful, but they came to a sudden end when John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln in 1865.
After Abraham Lincoln’s death, Vice President Andrew Johnson stepped up into the presidential position and started his own plans for reconstruction, which turned out to be a failure. He supported hardcore Democratic principles and restoring Southern power. He brought the remaining states back into the Constitution. He divided the power of planters and restricted their voting. He allowed Southern states that had abolished slavery and withdrew their articles of secession to obtain amnesty. The pardon allowed them to re-assume their powers of government and elect representatives to the Congress. This all failed because while the southern states was happy, and the Blacks were not voting under Johnson, the Radical Republicans were outraged, and more conflict was started. The whole idea of everyone being happy was not working at all with anyone. Johnson’s plan was the second attempt at Reconstruction to fail.
The third attempt to make Reconstruction successful was by Congress. Their plan was to punish the South for what they did and to give the blacks equal rights. However, the plan failed because they created two major acts that were never passed because Johnson vetoes them. One of the acts they proposed was to extend the Freedmen’s Bureau Act for two more years. The Freedmen’s Bureau Act was a watch for racism and protection of black rights. They also proposed the Civil Rights Act in 1866 that protected southern freedpeople from the black codes. Congress did legislate an act that revoked the pardons, punished the South, and protected the rights of slaves. They also passed the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments that gave blacks equal rights and voting rights, which caused chaos in the South.
An African American’s status was the focal problem of Reconstruction. The Thirteenth Amendment had abolished slavery, but the white people of the South still thought lowly of blacks. Southerners also believed that African Americans still belonged as slaves. These beliefs were shown in the “black codes” passed by some of the state legislatures. According to, Northerners considered these codes as a “revival of slavery in disguise.” The first state to pass the codes was Mississippi in November of 1865. They were a list of regulations that were totally anti-Black rights and restrained many of their rights. This example was one of the main incidents that promoted racism in the South.
Another cause of racism was the creation of the Ku Klux Klan. According to Richard Wormser’s article on, in 1865, six Confederate veterans in Tennessee met to form a secret society. At first, it functioned as a ‘social club’ for ex-Confederates and southern men. However, it quickly changed into a ‘terrorist organization’ where they would devote their lives to resisting pro-Black laws and promoting racism. They wore white robes and masks and claimed they were ghosts of dead Confederates. They used terrorist tactics coming out at night and murdering/beating African Americans and commonly hung them from trees. This organization is an example of how the idea of reconstruction just pushed some people into attacking and killing innocent people.
In late July 1866, the New Orleans Riot took place. According to, ‘Radical Republicans in Louisiana reconvened the Constitutional Convention’ because they were ‘angered by the enactment of the black codes in Louisiana and by the legislature’s refusal to give black men’ the right to vote. Twenty-five white delegates met at the Convention, and two hundred blacks came to support them. Former Confederates were threatened by their meeting and raided the gathering. They shot and killed innocent victims. One hundred people were injured, thirty-four African Americans were killed, and three whites were killed. This riot is another example of Reconstruction failing.
An enormous cause in allowing racism throughout the south was the Compromise of 1877. According to, in this compromise, the Democrats agreed to give the victory to the Republican Party candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes ‘on the condition that Republicans withdraw all federal troops’ from their remaining positions in the South. They had to establish a federal legislation that would spur industrialization in the South. They also had to appoint a Democrat to the presidential cabinet. With the absence of soldiers in the South, Southerners were able to commit all the racist acts they wanted, and not a single thing was done to stop racism until the 1950’s.
Racism was a part of everyday life for people in the south for a very long time. This all could have possibly been avoided with a better reconstruction plan. The North had no control over the South’s act of racism because of some of the choices they made and things they sacrificed. After the Civil War, the whole population was watching the government to see what would be done about the slavery issue. When it began to tip toward favoring the free blacks, the South stepped up and found ways through loopholes in the system to where they could promote racism whenever they wanted. The reconstruction plans all had good points, ideas, or rules in them. However, none of them worked because the rebellious South did not follow the rules, which made the whole reconstruction period a failure. Americans did not solve the largest problem they had. They abolished slavery, and it appeared in the American constitution, but it never showed up in the American society.

Source: Essay UK -

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